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Taranaki horror crash: Eight-year-old girl in critical condition dies

 

An eight-year-old girl has become the seventh person to die after a head-on crash on SH3 in Taranaki yesterday.

The crash happened near the Waverley racing club about 11.11am yesterday.

Six people died at the scene - four elderly people in a car heading north, and a male driver and baby in a vehicle heading south.

An eight-year-old girl who was a passenger in the southbound car and in a critical condition after the crash died in Waikato Hospital early this morning. A woman who was the front-seat passenger in the same car remains in a serious condition in Wellington Hospital's intensive care unit.

Fire and Emergency had three vehicles at the scene yesterday and helped release passengers trapped in the crash.

The Serious Crash Unit is investigating.

The crash is the worst on New Zealand roads since 2005 when a minivan carrying tourists slammed into a timber truck near Morrinsville in 2005 and killed nine people.

Waverley fire and emergency chief Alan Hickford said the identities of the deceased would only be released once next of kin were notified.

Mr Hickford said it was clear the vehicles had crashed head on.

He said the weather was clear and the road was dry at the time of the crash, which happened on a slight bend in the road.

"This is a devastating crash and the tragedy will affect a large number of people in our community," Mr Hickford said.

"Our sympathies and condolences go out to the family, friends and loved ones of those involved."


South Taranaki Mayor Ross Dunlop told Morning Report the tragic collision has left the community in shock and at a loss to explain it.

"The community is in absolute shock. It's just an unbelievable situation ... it just really hit us hard.

"It was quite a heavy frost in the morning, in fact our councillors put out a warning just to say to people 'be careful on the road', but by 10.30am [the frost] had well and truly gone. It's just a complete mystery."

"There's been a lot of work done on the roads in that area, so it's not an area that would have sort of stood out at as a hot spot [for accidents]. But there is quite a sharp bend you ... do have to be a little bit cautious about."

He said he was aware that some locals were in the crash.

"We are getting some information but the police are still not releasing names so we need to respect that at this time, but we are aware that there are some Taranaki people involved," Mr Dunlop said.

"As soon as the accident happened, local farmers and members of the community got into action and sort of started guiding where the traffic can go.

"They need a heap of support as well because it's been probably one of the most traumatic events they will ever be involved in as well."

Whanganui Fire Service assistant area commander Jemal Weston who was at the scene said support was being given to the crew who were helping at the traumatic incident.

Local farmer Stephen Howe said the last fatal accident on that stretch of SH3 that he could remember was years ago.

"It's an easy corner, sort of sweeps around. People go at least 100km/h upwards around there. It's quite a fast bit of road along here," Mr Howe said.

Hawera truck driver Robert Clegg said he drove on the stretch of road every day and it was not particularly dangerous.

Mr Clegg said he drove through the corner where the accident occurred about 9am yesterday morning, and it was not slippery or affected by ice.

Carol Ball, a witness to the crash, said she and her partner heard a loud "bang".

"It was earlier this morning that we just heard a 'bang' and I looked over and saw a lot of dust. I thought it was a truck that dropped a bag of cement off, it was just like a whole lot of dust going up and then my partner said there's been an accident," Ms Ball said.

"There were about three fire brigades that came and then an ambulance and then three helicopters came as well.

"We didn't like to go down there because there was a lot of people there."

Another witness, Brian Martin, said it was a dangerous corner to drive.

"That is a dangerous corner that corner there, a lot of people don't really slow down and if you're coming from the other way you can get across the road and if a vehicle was passing the other vehicle on the left hand side and the other one was coming around the corner, they could quite easily have a head-on accident there," Mr Martin said.

Waverley Racing Club secretary Justine Alexander said she did not know if the people hurt and killed in the crash were locals, or driving through.

Associate Minister for Transport Julie Anne Genter said her heart goes out to the families of those killed in the crash.

Ms Genter said road safety needed to be paramount and a final government policy on transport was imminent.

The policy will set out spending for the next decade and is expected to include extra funding for road safety improvements.

Sweden had a similar fatality rate to New Zealand but reduced the toll by installing barriers on highways.

Ms Genter said a wire barrier on SH1 at Rangiriri in Waikato has reduced the fatal crash rate there.

https://www.geezgo.com/sps/28407

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