A woman held the hands of survivors trapped through a broken window as damaged power lines hung over their heads after arriving at the scene just after an accident that killed four people near Ashburton.
The collision between a truck and a van occurred at the intersection of Cochranes and Wakanui Roads in Elgin shortly before 10 a.m. on Friday.
Inspector David Gaskin, commander of the Mid-South Canterbury region, said three people died at the scene and one other person died at Ashburton Hospital.
The driver of the truck was injured, but “not seriously”, and was hospitalized for treatment, Gaskin told media in Ashburton shortly before noon.
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One person from the van was left in critical condition and another was seriously injured.
The people in the van were all North Island adults, he said.
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“It’s an absolute tragedy … it seems a moment of inattention caused this tragedy.”
“I just urge people to be careful, take their time and remember that tomorrow the sun will rise and make sure you get there and see it.”
One of the first people on the scene, a local resident who refused to give his name, heard a bang and rushed towards the intersection.
“I just went to the van, and I could see that there were a few deaths. All I did was stand there with my arms in the window comforting the other two who were talking until emergency services arrived and got them out, ”the resident said.
“They just held my arms and I kept talking to them and told them we knew there was someone in the way.”
When she arrived at the scene there were a few other cars, but no one wanted to approach the van.
“There was a power line hanging down… but you just have to do it, right?” You hope someone else would do it for your family if something like this happened. “
Gaskin said it appeared the van had passed through a controlled intersection in a “moment of neglect.”
Recent floods and heavy rains in the region have not been a factor.
The accident was a “tragedy” for four families and the driver of the truck who “would live for a long time,” he said.
The road would be closed for a while, he said.
“Every death has an impact on the community. Ashburton and the region of Mid-Canterbury have suffered a number of such accidents.
“It’s up to all of us to do our part and I hope we all go home.”
A Thing a reporter brought to the scene by police observed that the entire left front side of the van was wrinkled. He was resting against an electric pole. The disaster identification team was on site earlier today.
The company’s chief executive was at the scene of the crash, but declined to comment.
A resident of Wakanui Rd said Thing they had their chainsaw running when they heard a “horrible bang”.
The man, who did not want to be named, could see the utility pole on the lean-to and in the back of the van.
His partner, who was closer to the scene, told him there had been a “big crash”.
The man grabbed a fire extinguisher, jumped into his car and rushed to the scene. When he arrived, he saw a pickup truck that appeared to have been “hijacked on the road”.
A neighbor was talking to a woman through the passenger window of the smashed van.
“There was a couple talking… we just had to keep them calm until the ambulance arrived.”
Shortly after the arrival of help.
He said the scene was “quite devastating”.
He believed those in the van were middle aged.
Gerald Dolan, a resident of Wakanui Rd, said the crash was very noisy and rattled his house, so much so that he initially thought a bomb had exploded in his street.
Dolan said it looked like a truck, with an aluminum bulk bin in the back, was driving along Wakanui Rd when it crashed into the side of a pickup truck, which appeared to have come to a stop controlled on Cochranes Rd.
He said the truck swerved the van across the road and toward a nearby utility pole, breaking it.
“When I got out the van was clean across the utility pole and the truck was stuck on the side of the van and he had pushed it about 30 yards down the road.”
Dolan, who has lived on the property for 11 years, said he had said for many years that it was only a matter of time before a serious accident happened at the intersection.
“I’m standing in my backyard here and looking through and watching these vehicles go through Cochranes Rd and they just don’t give in, they go straight through.”
Dolan said he also had issues with the lack of road markings at the intersection. “They go down Cochranes Rd so fast sometimes… they just ignore the stop sign.”
The council had also recently replaced the utility pole near the intersection and believed it obscured the view of drivers when they pulled over, he said.
The intersection has stop signs on both sides.
Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown had yet to be notified by authorities of the crash, but had heard ambulances and a helicopter in the area. The region has been hit by devastating flooding this week.
“It is such tragic news to go over what we have been through over the past week.”
According to accident data from the Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency (NZTA), there have been at least 16 other fatal crashes on Canterbury’s roads so far this year. Nationally, there have been at least 138 road fatalities during the same period.
There has been only one other accident at the intersection of Cochranes and Wakanui Roads since January 2000, which has not resulted in any injuries, according to accident data from NZTA.
Earlier on Friday, a motorcyclist died in a collision at the intersection of Riccarton Rd and Hansons Ln in Upper Riccarton, Christchurch.