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Two seriously injured young children crawled to safety as their father lay dead next to their car after a crash on Ashburton Gorge Rd last night.
The children had been out with their dad at his Christmas work function and were on their way home when the 35-year-old man lost control of the Toyota Hilux he was driving at a moderate left-hand bend, went onto the gravel and rolled several times about 10.45pm, police said.
The man, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was thrown from the car but his children, who were wearing seatbelts, stayed strapped in their seats in the back.
Acting Canterbury road policing manager Senior Sergeant Scott Richardson said the children, aged 6 and 7, crawled to safety.
"They had managed to get themselves out of the vehicle, in the dark, and when people came across the crash, they were standing at the back of the vehicle with their dad lying dead on the side of the road."
The children suffered serious injuries and were taken to Ashburton Hospital by ambulance. Mr Richardson said their mother was at their bedside.
"It's pretty horrific. Christmas is about children and family and that this happened two days before Christmas, it's just heartbreaking," he told the Herald.
The serious crash unit is investigating the crash, but police believe speed was a factor and were disappointed the man wasn't wearing his seatbelt. They are also investigating whether alcohol was involved.
"If he'd been wearing his seatbelt, he would be lying in hospital with his kids, injured, but not dead.
"This is Christmas - it's meant to be coming together for Christmas, not coming together for funerals."
Mr Richardson urged drivers to take extra precaution this holiday period and urged them to:
-- Stick to the speed limit
-- Drive to the conditions
-- Ensure everyone in the car is wearing a seatbelt
-- Never drink and drive.
"No one sets out to have a fatal crash, but if you're not engaged in your driving, it can have terrible consequences," Mr Richardson said.
A reduced tolerance of 4kmh over the speed limit is being enforced until the end of next month.
- by Amelia Wade