Eight people have been confirmed dead after yesterday’s crash north of Taupo, making April the deadliest month on record for New Zealand road users in 10 years.
Police described the crash as "catastrophic" and urged motorists to make sure they are driving to the conditions as the seasons change.
The crash, which happened on a single-lane stretch of State Highway 1 about halfway between Taupo and Tokoroa, was thought to be due to an SUV carrying eight people crossing the centre line and colliding head-on with a van traveling in the opposite direction. Seven occupants of the van were killed, with the only survivor a nine-year-old boy who is currently in a stable condition at Waikato Hospital.
The tragedy comes after another crash in the same area killed five people on April 1. A car carrying six collided with trees after coming off the road near Kinleith, with the only survivor being an 11-year-old boy. The same day, three people were killed in a crash near Ashburton and another crash caused a death in Auckland.
The April road toll now stands at 45, with 137 deaths on the roads for the entire year so far.
Speaking on RNZ’s Morning Report, Inspector Brent Crowe could not confirm the identities of those killed in yesterday’s crash or the specifics of how it happened.
"We're still working on a process of identification and reconciliation process in relation to the deceased so it'll probably be a few more hours, if not days, before we confirm the identities and where they were living,” he said.
Crowe stressed that while it wasn’t confirmed if the occupants' not wearing seat belts was a factor in the crash, it was definitely one of the things that motorists need to be aware of. He also listed general danger factors including alcohol, fatigue, excessive speed and the emerging issue of ‘distractions’ like the use of phones while at the wheel.
He also stressed that as the seasons change, so do road conditions.
“I think, with the changing conditions, people need to be a little bit more aware, take more care and drive to the prevailing conditions,” says Crowe.