Seatbelts a factor in fatal crash
Police are investigating the likelihood that passengers in the back of a station wagon that crashed near Longburn, killing two people, were unrestrained.
Kathryn Dinah Matenga, 70, and Annie Tamanui, 69, died after the car they and four others were travelling in crossed the centre line and hit a culvert on State Highway 56 at Longburn, about 1.30am yesterday.
The women died at the scene and the car's other four passengers were taken to Palmerston North Hospital. All six passengers are understood to be related. Police believe a 53-year-old man was driving the vehicle, with Matenga in the front passenger's seat and Tamanui and two others - a 10-year-old boy and a 29-year-old woman - in the back seat.
Police cannot confirm where a 3-year-old boy was sitting at the time of the crash.
Manawatu Senior Sergeant Ashley Gurney said they believed the vehicle had picked up a family member and was heading back to a property when the crash occurred.
Of the four taken to hospital, the driver and the 10-year-old boy were in a stable condition and the 29-year-old woman was in a serious condition yesterday. The 3-year-old suffered minor injuries and was being monitored. All four remained in hospital last night.
A local kaumatua attended the crash scene yesterday and performed a blessing and karakia.
The crash happened at the entrance to the home of Matt Haitana and Harley King, who said they slept through the event, not hearing sirens or noticing any commotion.
Haitana said he didn't notice the debris of the crash when he left the house at 8am yesterday, and it wasn't until later that he found out what had happened. It came as a "bit of a shock", he said.
Police are examining the vehicle and are still seeking witnesses to the crash.
"We are working to determine what factors have led to the crash as well as the probability that the back-seat passengers may not have been restrained," Gurney said.
Police would like to speak to anyone driving on State Highway 56 at the time of the crash, as they may have seen something that will help police put together the vehicle's movements before the collision.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Senior Sergeant Gurney on (06) 351 3843. Alternatively information can be provided anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.