Ute in fatal Northland crash may have been driven dangerously on Baylys Beach
A ute involved in a crash in which three Exclusive Brethren members died may have been being driven dangerously on a beach before the crash, police say.
Susanna Stewart, 48, Sadie Stewart, 16, and James Wearmouth, 18, were killed when the ute they were travelling in hit a tree on Baylys Coast Rd, near Dargaville, on Monday.
Police said on Thursday they had "information suggesting the ute may have been driving dangerously on Baylys Beach prior to the crash, and passengers were seen riding in the back tray of the ute on the beach".
Northland road policing manager inspector Wayne Ewers said: "If anyone saw this we're keen to hear from them."
Police were also appealing for witnesses who saw the crash or arrived on the scene shortly after to help their investigation into the crash.
Ewers said police were keen to hear from anyone who saw a person walking away from the scene of the crash.
Eight people, including the three deceased, were in the late-model dark blue Mitsubishi Triton ute when it skidded off Baylys Coast Rd on a right hand bend and hit a large tree around 6.40pm.
Two of the passengers, both male, were in the ute's tray. The group was travelling home from Baylys Beach.
The male driver and rear seat right side female passenger escaped with minor injuries, while the two young males riding in the tray were thrown from the vehicle.
They were taken to hospital with non life-threatening injuries.
Police earlier said they may press charges against the driver over the incident.
The three dead were members of the Plymouth Brethren Church, also known as the Exclusive Brethren.
On Tuesday, church spokesman Doug Watt said the community was deeply saddened by the deaths.
Their deaths contributed to a horror Queens Birthday weekend road toll of 11 deaths.
Anyone who saw the crash should contact constable Reuben Cohen at Dargaville Police Station on 09 439 3400. Information can also be provided anonymously to the organisation Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.