New Zealand's top road policing officer has hit out at
irresponsible drivers after another holiday death on New
A motorcyclist injured yesterday in a crash on the
Taihape-Napier road later died, taking the Christmas-New Year
holiday period road toll to seven.
The death comes as several others battle for survival after a
horrific morning crash on State Highway 5.
Three family members - a 6-month-old boy, a 12-year-old girl
and a man in his 30s - are in critical condition in Hawkes
Bay Hospital after their van plunged down a bank yesterday
The van, which had eight occupants and was travelling south
on the Napier-Taupo road, is believed to have plunged at
least 10m down a bank after the driver fell asleep.
Five other family members are also being treated in Hawkes
The crash could have gone unnoticed had a man and baby not
been thrown out as the vehicle rolled and dropped over the
They were noticed by a passing motorist, who alerted
emergency services at 6.48am yesterday, initiating a rescue
in which six others were winched from the wreckage by
helicopter, as thousands of motorists waited for State
Highway 5 to reopen about noon.
A woman told police she stopped when she saw the man and
infant on the grass beside the road.
''She said she took the baby off him and he just collapsed,''
an officer said.
It would have been impossible for anyone to have climbed up
from the wreckage, officers said.
Five of the victims were believed to have flown from
Melbourne to Auckland on New Year's Day.
Hawkes Bay rescue pilot Jeremy Bruce said power lines almost
immediately above the wreck, along with tall trees
surrounding it and a wind, made the rescues ''quite a
The holiday road toll period began at 4pm on Christmas Eve
and finishes today at 6am.
Last year, six people died over the period - the lowest since
Ministry of Transport records began in 1958-59.
Assistant Commissioner Road Policing Dave Cliff said all
seven deaths this holiday period were avoidable.
''They all happened because of the same old mistakes being
''The basic messages about slowing down, not driving when
you're tired, no alcohol, making sure all the vehicle
occupants are safely restrained - all these things apply,''
The number of people killed on the nation's roads in 2013 was
the lowest since 1950 at 254 fatalities. While December's
road toll of 23 was the lowest since 1965, the number of
deaths still occurring on the roads showed drivers still had
much to learn, he said.
''What these deaths keep highlighting is that the results and
the gains we are making are quite fickle. There is still lots
of risks out there and people need to be incredibly vigilant
The highest Christmas holiday road toll was in 1972-73, when
there were 37 deaths.