Two sisters and their friend will spend Christmas in hospital after a road smash which claimed the life of a Hamilton woman.
Paula Adele Jessep died when her northbound Toyota Rav4 crossed the centreline and ploughed into a Nissan car containing the three young women as they returned to Tokoroa from a day of Christmas shopping in Hamilton.
Police said initial investigations showed Ms Jessep was having a text conversation on her mobile phone when the accident happened at 10pm on Thursday on State Highway 1, north of Tirau near Pairere.
Senior Sergeant Fane Troy of the Taupo road policing group would not say if the 37-year-old mother was typing a text at the time of the crash but he said she had sent and received a number of texts.
Mr Troy said Ms Jessep's family in Hamilton were devastated by her death.
"This is a tragic loss of life at Christmas time. I cannot reiterate enough to everyone not to use mobile phones while driving."
Road conditions were treacherous at the time of the crash because of extremely heavy rain in the area.
The three women, a 24-year-old and her 19-year-old sister, from Tokoroa, and a 20-year-old friend originally from the south Waikato town and now living in Norsewood, had to be cut from their extensively damaged car by the Fire Service and were taken to Waikato Hospital with serious but non life-threatening injuries.
The teenager yesterday had surgery and she was last night recovering in a ward with the two older girls whose conditions were stable.
Waikato Hospital spokeswoman Mary Anne Gill said none of the girls would be going home for Christmas but they were all in a room together.
She said one of the women cried when she heard the news of Ms Jessep's death.
Mr Troy said the crash was a tragic reminder that motorists needed to be aware of the dangers of being distracted while driving.
"Because of one moment of inattention Christmas for a number of families will not be an enjoyable occasion."
Ms Jessep had worked as a St John regional community care manager for the Midland region until November this year when she resigned.
A St John spokeswoman said members were saddened to hear of Ms Jessep's tragic death and her family was in their thoughts.
The use of hand-held mobile phones while driving was outlawed in November 2009, but a survey last year found one in 12 drivers, or 22 per cent of motorists, still sent texts while driving.
Dec, 2006: Ohope teenager Sharleen Lloyd had been texting before the car she was driving veered off the road into a parked trailer near Awakeri killing her instantly and seriously injuring her boyfriend.
Sep, 2007: Robert Stonestreet, 20 was texting when he drove through a stop sign in Christchurch and ploughed into the car of Beverley and Samuel Keating, killing them as they were returning home from their 49th wedding anniversary celebration.
Mar, 2010: Curtis Lawson, 21, ran over and killed 93-year-old Phyllis Penman on a pedestrian crossing outside Hawke's Bay Hospital. Lawson admitted he had picked up his phone to read a text and did not see Mrs Penman.
Jan, 2011: Nathan Dodkin, 21, a Fastways Courier driver, died when he veered into the middle of State Highway 3 near Tariki, Taranaki and collided with an approaching truck. He had sent and received 13 texts before the crash.