‘In the blink of an eye, seven lives were gone’: Police say ‘absolute carnage’ following crash near Picton
- Seven people, including a baby, died in a crash between a van and a truck
- The crash happened on SH1, between Blenheim and Picton, around 7.30am on Sunday
- The highway will remain closed for some time
- It is the South Island’s deadliest crash in more than two decades
“In the blink of an eye, seven lives were gone,” a police chief told media following a horrific accident near Picton.
The horror crash that killed seven people from one family, including a baby, left emergency services “incredulous” on Sunday.
The fatal crash between a van and a refrigerated freight truck – the South Island’s worst in more than two decades – happened on State Highway 1 between Blenheim and Picton around 7.30am.
Emergency services remain at the scene, near Mt Pleasant, and the Police Serious Accident Unit is investigating.
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Speaking to the media on Sunday afternoon, Tasman District Commander Inspector Paul Borrell said it was ‘absolute carnage’, while police also said it was “a horrible thing” for the emergency services.
Investigations are still ongoing, but early indications are that the van likely crossed the center line before the collision with the truck, police said.
Seven people from a family, including a baby, died in the collision. Two people in the van suffered serious and serious injuries, while the driver of the truck suffered minor injuries.
Borrell said disaster victim identification personnel were at the scene of the accident.
“Any death on our roads is a tragedy, not to mention several deaths in an accident,” he said in a statement.
“An accident of this magnitude has a huge impact both on the community where it occurs, that of the family and community of the deceased, and on the emergency services that attend.”
Police have been focused on making sure the victims are supported and the circumstances of the accident are fully investigated, he said.
Police planned to speak to the media about the crash outside Blenheim Police Station at 1.30pm.
Picton Fire Chief Wayne Wytenburg said the scene was “absolutely horrific”
His team had to help pull people out of the truck and van. The driver was the sole occupant of the truck, while the occupants of the van appeared to be a family, he said.
“It’s still really sinking…it’s very, very sad.
“Everyone in the emergency services was a professional doing their job, but you could see the disbelief on their faces.”
Wytenburg said he held a health and safety debrief with his team immediately after their response, and that all emergency personnel who attended would attend a more in-depth workshop on Monday to help them. to cope with the trauma.
“As a brigade, our condolences go out to the families affected by this tragic event.”
Wytenburg urged people to be careful on the roads.
“We keep talking about the Road to Zero road toll campaign, well, we have to take it seriously.”
He would work on public education messages ahead of the Matariki long weekend, he said.
“I don’t hesitate to call *555 when I see people driving like crazy on the freeway…you wouldn’t believe what some people do just to get to work five minutes early. It’s just not worth it.
“Slow down, take your breaks, the nine yards.”
“They came quickly”
Koromiko resident Trish Rawlings said she heard two gunshots outside her rural property on SH1.
“Then I heard a siren, so I went down to the gate to have a look. There were emergency vehicles there at the time, helicopters, they came quickly. It must have been within 10 minutes of the accident.
A Big Chill truck was lying in a ditch between the road and the train tracks, she said. There was also a vehicle that looked like a van or motorhome, but it was partly hidden behind an ambulance, Rawlings said.
At 9:15 a.m., police were setting up investigative cones at the scene and taking photos, she said.
Big Chill Distribution managing director Michael Roberts said he was aware of the accident, but was “unclear as to what happened” at this stage, and he is not was unable to comment further.
Mayor: “We all feel the pain”
Marlborough Mayor John Leggett said the news was “absolutely terrible”.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by this tragedy.”
He was just getting out of bed when he heard several sirens coming out of Blenheim, he said.
“When you hear all those sirens your heart races a little, you know it’s not going to be good.”
He had not yet heard of locals being involved, but said the wider community of Marlborough would feel the loss of so many lives.
“No matter where it happens in New Zealand, we all feel the pain of cases like this.”
Traffic delays, ferry postpones navigation
Borrell said SH1, south of Picton, would likely remain closed for the rest of the day.
Here’s what you need to know about traffic delays.
An alternate route between Picton and Blenheim crossed State Highway 6 and Queen Charlotte Drive.
The Aratere and Kaitaki Interislander crossings from Picton would likely be adjusted to give passengers more time to reach the ferry terminal via the alternative route, KiwiRail Interislander executive general manager Walter Rushbrook said.
No rail service was affected by the accident.
Two wounded helicoptered to Wellington
A St John’s spokesman, Siobhan Campbell, said two helicopters, three ambulances, a first response unit and a manager had been dispatched to the scene.
One seriously injured person and one seriously injured person were airlifted to Wellington.
A third person with minor injuries, believed to be the truck driver, was taken by ambulance to Wairau Hospital in Blenheim.
The accident happened around a slight bend on a long straight section of the highway, the same bend where Picton man Gary Kenny died in a head-on collision with a truck in March 2020.
New Zealand’s deadliest crashes
The crash is the South Island’s deadliest in more than two decades and one of the worst in all of New Zealand.
In June 2000, six members of a family died when their pickup truck collided with a meat truck on State Highway 1 in Wairuna in southern Otago.
On April 28, 2019, a single accident near Taupō claimed the lives of eight people.
In August last year, five teenagers – Javarney Wayne Drummond, 15, Andrew George Goodger, 15, Niko William Hill, 15, Joseff Alan James McCarthy, 16 and Jack Graeme Wallace, 16 – were killed in an accident near Timaru.
The 19-year-old driver is the sole survivor.
In April, Tyreese Stuart Fleming pleaded guilty in the High Court to five counts of dangerous driving causing death. He will be sentenced on June 29.
New Zealand’s worst accident happened in Northland in February 1963, when a bus carrying 35 passengers home after seeing the Queen in Waitangi crashed down a 30-metre gradient, killing 15 people. A brake failure sent the bus rolling off a cliff off the Brynderwyn Hills.
Sunday’s tragedy brings the national road toll to 184 so far this year, 27 more than the same time last year. There have been four more fatal accidents at Marlborough so far in 2022.