South Island New Zealand. Seven people including a baby died on Sunday morning in a tragic head-on crash on State Highway 1, south of Picton, in the Marlborough region of New Zealand’s South Island.
In a media statement following the fatal incident, Police Inspector Paul Borrell said the crash involved a van and a refrigerated goods truck, north of Koromiko.
“There were nine people in the van and tragically seven of them, including an infant, were killed “in the blink of an eye” after their van appeared to cross the centreline on State Highway 1 south of Picton about 7.30am” Police say.
Police say the cause of the crash is still under investigation and one of the deceased was the driver of the van, “and as such the matter will be referred to the coroner in due course”.
The other two passengers in the van were flown to Wellington Hospital, 65km from Picton. Police say one in critical condition in ICU, and the other is a serious but stable condition.
All nine passengers of the Toyota Hiace van are believed to have travelled from Auckland to attend a family funeral in Dunedin.
A family member who had stayed behind in Auckland told RNZ she had lost everyone.
Princess Clariman told RNZ she was the only family member to have stayed behind in Auckland, while her parents, brothers, cousin and aunt were all in the crash.
Ms Clariman was at Wellington Hospital with her brother and another family member who survived the crash. Her brother’s wife and their 9-10 month old baby are amongst the lives lost in the tragic incident.
“Any death on our roads is a tragedy, let alone multiple fatalities in one crash,” said Inspector Borrell. “A crash of this scale has a huge impact on both the community where it happens, that of the deceased’s family and community, and on emergency services who attend”.
Fire and Emergency group manager Steve Trigg was among the 16 firefighters to attend the scene. “In 30 years, and I can only speak for myself, I’ve not been to an incident like that with a large loss. Very difficult for everyone and it will have an impact on all of those involved.”
NZ Police say their focus remains on gathering information to assist the Coroner, and on supporting the victims in this crash, as well as first responders.
Marlborough District mayor John Leggett told Morning Report the accident was an “absolute tragedy”.
“I heard the emergency sirens coming from here in Blenheim,” he said. “It was pretty clear there was a major event that had occurred.”
Leggett said that section of the state highway was one he knew very well.
“On the face of it there doesn’t seem to be any obvious roading issues, or traffic issues.”
The District Mayor said if there were safety improvements needed, Council had been assured they would be implemented without delay.
“There will be a full report done and we will expect appropriate action to happen.”