Fatality crash site was 'carnage'

A crash site near Mossburn in which one man was killed and eight others were injured was ''carnage'', a woman who stopped to help says.

''The vehicle was pretty mangled. The rest were lucky they were able to walk away,'' Vanessa Te Whata said.

Police yesterday released the name of Michael Gray, a 31-year-old shearer from Nightcaps. He is survived by a partner and five children. He was the front-seat passenger, and was dead at the scene.

Nine members of two shearing gangs were in a Toyota Hiace van that hit a power pole about 4km south of Mossburn about 6.50pm on Thursday.

Senior Sergeant Cynthia Fairley, of Western Southland police, said the van appeared to have hit a concrete buttress on a small bridge before rolling and hitting the pole. A trailer attached to the van had broken free and ended up a nearby creek. It was not known if the van occupants were wearing seat belts.

Eight people were taken to Southland Hospital: a 48-year-old man with a broken leg and a 17-year-old man with a broken arm, while another six, aged from 17 to 60, had minor injuries. All were from the Nightcaps and Ohai area.

The crash happened in daylight, on a straight sealed road, and police were investigating its cause, Snr Sgt Fairley said.

Ms Te Whata runs Shearing Services and said the nine van occupants were self-employed shearing staff working on contracts for her.

The dead man was a shearer from the North Island who had recently travelled south for work, she said. She understood his family members were on their way south and would take his body home for burial.

Only one van occupant was female, she said.

Ms Te Whata said she understood two of the crash victims had surgery in Southland Hospital yesterday.

The gangs had been working on separate jobs in Northern Southland, Ms Te Whata said. They had merged to help finish a job, and were on their way home when the crash occurred.

Ms Te Whata said she was on her way home to Mossburn from Invercargill when she was told some of her independent contractors had been in a crash. She arrived at the scene soon afterwards to find emergency services assisting the injured.

It was ''pretty mind-blowing'' to think a day at work could end in death, she said.

''You never think it is going to happen to you or someone you know.''

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