An elderly passenger killed yesterday after rocks smashed
into the car she was in has been identified.
Heather Joy Thompson (75), of New Plymouth, was on her way to
a reunion in Waihi with her sister when the hatchback car
they were in was struck by rocks on State Highway 3, near
Waitomo yesterday morning.
Piopio fire station officer Tama Williams, who attended the
incident between Mahoenui and Piopio, said the impact of the
rock fall shunted the car about 20 metres down the road.
The car was travelling on a downhill stretch of road at the
time, he said.
"The rock was quite big, probably five feet around."
They fell from a bluff about 30m above the road, Mr Williams
"Right at the base of the bluff, there's quite a steep angle.
The rocks hit the bottom and bounced out onto the road. It
struck the car on the side."
"The momentum of the car - it was travelling at road speed -
and it sort of just bounced off whatever rocks hit it and
carried on down the road a bit."
Ms Thompson's sister, who was driving, was out of the car
when emergency staff arrived, Mr Williams said.
"She was taken to hospital in Te Kuiti with some minor cuts
and probably a bit of shock."
Her sister died at the scene.
The incident was the fourth firefighters from Piopio had
attended involving rock falls on that part of the road, he
None had previously involved vehicles being struck, he said.
The dry weather could have contributed to instability in the
"It's a 50km stretch of road, and it's in a gorge and its
[rockfalls] just one of the hazards that are there. It's well
sign-posted. It was unfortunate. She was unlucky."
Senior Sergeant Pete Van De Wetering advised SH3 was down to
Traffic management was in place and motorists should take
extra care when using the affected stretch of road, he said.
With the Beach Hop event in Whangamata and the Balloons Over
Waikato festival in Hamilton, roads in the Waikato region
were busy, Mr Van De Wetering said.
People should plan ahead and allow plenty of time to reach
their destination, he said.
- Teuila Fuatai of APNZ