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Horror crash raises Labour weekend toll

Published: 7:00AM Sunday October 21, 2012 Source: ONE News

Two terrible days on the roads have left seven people dead and their families in mourning this holiday weekend.

The official holiday period does not end until 6am on Tuesday.

The toll includes a mother of two, killed in an alleged hit-and-run on the outskirts of New Plymouth, and a horrific, fiery car crash South of Te Karaka near Gisborne that saw four dead.

The horror weekend comes after there were no deaths on the roads during the long Easter weekend this year.

A blackened road and broken glass is all that remained today of the horrific crash which claimed the life of mother-of-four Serena Smith about 20 kilometres north of Gisborne last night.

Her family is still reeling from news of the accident.

"It's going to be a great loss, especially for the children," said Jack Tomoana, Smith's uncle.

"I think what you do is try and hope for the best and think that maybe she could have possibly survived it, although in the back of your mind you're thinking okay, this doesn't sound too good."

Smith, 33, was driving her van home from Gisborne to her whanau in Whatatutu when her vehicle collided head on with a Ford Explorer that crossed the centre line on State Highway Two at Kaitaratahi. 

The Explorer caught fire and three of its occupants died. The 59-year-old driver of the Explorer was the sole survivor and is in a serious but stable condition in an induced coma at Gisborne Hospital.

Police say alcohol was a factor in the crash.
Gisborne Fire Service area commander Charlie Turei said it was "a scene from hell".

"Two cars had obviously impacted at high speed, huge damage," he said.

Police say passers-by stopped to try to help those trapped in the burning vehicle but they couldn't get their seatbelts released before the fire took hold.

Manslaughter charge over jogger's death

Meanwhile, police have been guarding the scene of another fatality on SH3, south of New Plymouth.

A 45-year-old New Plymouth woman, Anne Elizabeth McCullough, was struck by a car while out jogging.

The body of the mother of two was discovered in the back seat of a purple Holden Commodore approximately 24km from the scene of the hit and run.  

Police have charged a 27-year-old man with manslaughter.

Police say basic road safety messages are not getting through to some people.

"What's been clear from many of the crashes is the basic messages around speed, alcohol and wearing restraints just doesn't get through to a few people," said Superintendent Carey Griffiths, National Road Policing Manager.

Five-car pile-up

And on the outskirts of Wellington, holidaymakers came to a standstill as emergency services attended a five-car pile-up in Lower Hutt this afternoon. Luckily all survived, with speed a factor in the crash.

Griffiths said this weekend there have been seven more fatalities than police want.

"We want zero. It's always the message - any death is one too many."

Now police are pleading for motorists to heed their warnings, with the official holiday period not over until 6am on Tuesday.