One dead, child badly hurt in crash

CRASH SCENE: Emergency crews working at the scene of the fatal accident.
CRASH SCENE: Emergency crews working at the scene of the fatal accident.

Black ice is being blamed for a Waioeka Gorge crash that killed one person and injured two others.

A Mitsubishi Pajero carrying four people rolled on the Gisborne-Bay of Plenty link this morning after it drove onto ice, having reportedly slowed in response to warnings a few seconds earlier.

An elderly woman was killed in the accident, 10 kilometres west of the small town of Matawai, between Gisborne and Opotiki.

Police spokesman Inspector Marty Parker said emergency services were called out when a car rolled into a ditch on Matawai Rd, State Highway 2, shortly after 8.30am today.

A toddler was seriously injured in the crash and was taken to Auckland's Starship Hospital. A 29-year old woman was discharged after being treated for minor injuries.

The crash was in the same spot where two vehicles left the road due to ice last week. Police have closed that stretch of Highway while the serious crash unit investigated the scene.

A road worker, who did not want to be named, said he had waved to the Pajero in an effort to make it slow down just before the crash.

"He did slow down as I waved him down," he said.

"Then he went around the bend and rolled anyway - I didn't see the crash."

Tairawhiti District Health communications manager Kathy McVey said a three-year-old girl had been flown to Auckland's Starship Hospital in critical condition.

 A 41-year-old man and another passenger were at Gisborne Hospital emergency department, undergoing tests, she said.

Police had not yet released the name of the dead person.

''Ice warning patrols" were sent out to the area every morning, the road worker said.

"We come here each day at 4.30am to put up the signs, I drive here straight from home," he said.

"Because we are local, we know where the danger spots are."

At several locations around the crash area, 30kmh and ice-and-grit warning signs bear witness to the precarious conditions.

"We're not trying to be difficult by putting these signs up - we're trying to save lives," he said.

"It's dangerous here as soon as the temperature drops below one or two degrees."

Last week, two vehicles had gone off the road in the same spot, less than 100 metres from where the Pajero rolled.

"They were both non-injury crashes, but they had to be pulled out with tow trucks."

The road worker said the ice patrols typically ended around 11.30am.

- Whakatane Beacon

The Dominion Post