With two loud bangs the Queen's Birthday road toll rose to five, and four children lost a father.
"Rest easy dad," AJ Ihaka's son Shelton posted on Facebook in the aftermath of a late-night crash on the outskirts of the Tararua town of Eketahuna.
After a Queen's Birthday road toll of zero in 2013, this year's has frustrated police as it climbed to five at 10.30pm on Saturday with more than 48 hours of the official holiday period to run.
The weekend's first death happened only hours after the road toll period started when Auckland woman Robyn Eilleen Derrick died after crashing head-on into a campervan which crossed the centre line near Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula. The van was driven by a foreign tourist.
Later on Saturday, Shane Summerfield, 48, suffered serious injuries and his wife Sally Vanessa Summerfield, 49, their daughter, Ella Yasmin Summerfield, 12, and Ella's friend Abigail Ann Hone, 12 were killed in a crash described as senseless after another car, also driven by a tourist, allegedly ran a stop sign in Rakaia, Canterbury.
A sixth person, Mt Wellington woman Karen Yin Yong, was involved in a head-on collision on Auckland's Southern Motorway on Friday morning shortly before the road toll period began. She died in hospital yesterday.
Eketahuna resident Max Avis was in bed reading a book in his Alfredton Rd home when he heard "two big bangs, like gun shots" as Ihaka's car crashed into a lamp-post at the corner of his road and Herbert St.
Police said speed and alcohol likely played a part in the crash.
Adrian James Ihaka, 36, of Eketahuna, was pronounced dead at the scene. The car was a "total wreck" and the crash left nearby houses without power until 4am, Avis said.
Ihaka's aunt, who would not be named, said her nephew sold firewood in Eketahuna and was a "good bloke".
He had four school-aged children, all aged under 17. A local man, who did not want to be named, was one of the first on the scene and told The Dominon Post Ihaka was thrown from the car.
The damage showed the extreme speed it must have been travelling, he said. "He wasn't driving at normal road speed, that's for sure." Ihaka lived close to the accident site, so would have known the intersection well.
Eketahuna Rugby Club president Dennis Dougherty said about 290 people celebrated the club's 125th anniversary at the community hall on Saturday. Ihaka had been at an after-match function at the clubrooms in the afternoon and into the night.
His partner was also there and there had been a "domestic discussion" before he left.
Following the crash, his partner and children were "terribly upset", Dougherty said yesterday. "I guess not much has changed today, coming to grips with something so unexpected and unnecessary."
- The Dominion Post