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The wife of a top rugby player was killed when the car she was driving hit roadside gravel, over-corrected, spun across the centre-line, and was T-boned by an approaching car in one of three road deaths this Easter.
Hannah Louise Eaton, 25, of Hastings, was married to former Hurricane and Magpies rugby player Chris Eaton, who was in Perth on a short-term contract with the Western Force.
Paraparaumu Beach man Antony John King, 53, and Temuka cyclist Stephen John Kirkcaldie, 55, were also killed on the roads during Easter, with police saying the road toll was "three too many". Last Easter the toll was zero.
Mrs Eaton's accident comes a week after the country's gravel roadsides came under scrutiny from leading road safety campaigner Clive Matthew-Wilson.
He said it had been known for decades that gravel and over-correction of vehicles caused crashes.
"Due to the dreadful design of most New Zealand roads, simple mistakes often turn into multiple fatalities."
But New Zealand Transport Agency chief safety adviser for highways Colin Brodie said only the most high-risk stretches of road were able to be upgraded. To widen the shoulder by one metre cost between $100,000 and $1 million a kilometre.
NZTA figures show it costs about $13,000 to install one kilometre of rumble strips. Mr Brodie said almost all New Zealand roads had gravel on the edge, apart from urban streets.
Mrs Eaton was driving north in a BMW on State Highway 26, 14 kilometres south of Thames, when she got into some roadside gravel, police said.
It appeared she had over-corrected, spun across the centre-line, and was hit by an oncoming car. Eaton and his wife have a daughter, Layla.
Yesterday, Eaton tweeted: "Thanks for the support. I love my wife so much it hurts. My angel Layla is my world and is the last thing holding me together. Love 2 all."
All Blacks Piri Weepu, Victor Vito and Neemia Tialata were among those who sent condolences to Eaton on Twitter.
Piri Weepu said: "My thoughts and prayers go out to you and Layla brother. Stay strong my mate. Words can never bring her back, but we here 4 you."
Hurricanes chief executive officer James Te Puni offered a tribute to Mrs Eaton, who had been part of the club's family for four years.
Players Karl Lowe and Mike Coman were heading to Hawke's Bay to support their team-mate.
The first Easter death was on Thursday night, when Mr Kirkcaldie was killed in a collision with a car.
Mr King was killed when the Suzuki in which he was a passenger and a BMW collided about 2am on Saturday on State Highway 5 at Wairakei, north of Taupo.
National road policing manager Superintendent Carey Griffiths said three deaths was three too many.
"We tend to think of it as a number, but each number has a face, a name and a family. We seem to accept it, but it shouldn't be tolerated."
Drivers losing control and crossing the centre-line were common factors in two of the Easter crashes.
"The fact is a lot of our roads don't have barriers, and the consequences of getting it wrong at 100 kilometres an hour are tragic," he said.
"Human beings are fallible, and crashes will occur. However, the incidence of injury or deaths can be reduced when we accept, comply with, and share the responsibility for using our roads safely."
Police were generally pleased with driver behaviour during the holiday period, Mr Griffiths said.
Wellington district road policing manager, Inspector Donna Laban, said extra police were on patrol around the region.
During the past five Easter periods there was an average of six road deaths.
Last year's zero road toll at Easter was the first since records began.
The Easter holiday period ended at 6am today.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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