Ute hit fallen tree leading to deaths of two passengers

Shipwreck Bay near Ahipara, at the base of 90 Mile Beach.

A car that crashed in Northland earlier this week killing two people had hit a fallen tree.

Emergency services were called shortly before midnight on Tuesday.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand told RNZ the callout took five hours, in “horrible” rain on Kaitāia-Awaroa Rd, but crews did their best to safely rescue the driver in a critical condition.

The two passengers died at the scene.

Ahipara Volunteer Fire Brigade chief officer Dave Ross said a tree on the south side of the road came down across the entirety of the road, falling across high-tension power lines. The ute, travelling from Pukepoto to Ahipara, collided with this tree and kept on going.

“They obviously didn’t see the tree, and the vehicle actually drove under the tree and carried on another 75 to 100m, where it collided with another tree on the left-hand side of the road and came to a halt.”

He said there was “extremely significant” damage to the vehicle.

“The driver had been knocked unconscious when they went under the [first] tree. She was sadly the only survivor of the three occupants.”

He said a lady coming in the opposite direction saw the crash and called 111.

“There was an extremely dynamic situation as you had high-tension power lines … which inhibited the responders from Kaitāia coming to the Ahipara side of the tree, where the vehicle rested.”

They had to take a 35km detour to get to the scene.

“There was a significant delay in getting emergency services to perform the task, as we had to get Top Energy to ensure all the overhead power lines were dead.”

Ross said after the Serious Crash Unit investigator attended, the ute was winched out of the scene.

“Full respect was paid to the deceased. A kaumātua and a victim support person came to the scene, a karakia was performed before the bodies were extricated and all respect to those living and dead was paid.

“At this stage, no fault whatsoever can be attributed to the vehicle or the occupant in the cause or effect of the accident.”

The official holiday road toll ended on Wednesday at 21.

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