Partner saw fatal car crash

DOUBLE FATAL: A male tourist and a Kiwi woman died in a head-on crash on State Highway 1, north of Rakaia, yesterday.
DOUBLE FATAL: A male tourist and a Kiwi woman died in a head-on crash on State Highway 1, north of Rakaia, yesterday.

The partner of an Ashburton woman killed in a double-fatality crash in Canterbury was travelling behind her when the accident happened.

His car clipped one of the two vehicles involved in the head-on crash. Those at the scene kept him away from the wreck in which she died.

The crash was on State Highway 1 just north of the Rakaia River, about 1.15pm yesterday. Police said it appeared the southbound driver, a male Indian tourist, had drifted across the centre line into the path of the woman's northbound vehicle. 

Both drivers were dead when emergency services arrived at the crash.

Two people - a female passenger from each of the two vehicles - were badly injured. Three other vehicles were caught up in the crash, but no-one in them was hurt.

Sergeant Chris Jones said the dead woman was a 51-year-old Pacific Islander living in Ashburton. Her seriously injured passenger was a relative, a young woman in her 20s. She was serious, but stable this morning. They had been travelling north in convoy with other family members to attend a family gathering in Christchurch.

The Indian tourist, in his late 20s, was travelling with an Indian woman also in her 20s. They were thought to be a couple and were in New Zealand on holiday. She remains in a critical condition in Christchurch Hospital after undergoing surgery overnight. 

Names of the deceased were unlikely to be released today, Jones said.

The Ashburton woman had been formally identified, but next of kin in the Pacific Islands were yet to be informed of her death.

Jones said the Indian man was yet to be formally identified. Police were in contact with the Indian High Commission. 

Neither injured woman was medically fit to be interviewed, Jones said.

Visibility on SH1 was poor due to rainy conditions, but it was uncertain if this contributed to the crash.

Attending officers described the crash scene as "mayhem".

That the dead woman's partner was travelling behind her at the time made it even more tragic, Jones said.

"It happened right in front of him," Jones said.

"A head-on collision at 90 to 100 kilometres an hour, the force is huge.

"Having family right there, it does bring home how much of a tragedy it is."

Jones said initial inquiries showed neither driver was speeding and all involved wore seatbelts.

An itinerary found in the rental car showed the Indian tourists had been in New Zealand for a few days. They had rented the car in Christchurch yesterday before heading south.

A Westpac Rescue Helicopter spokesman said the crash was "up there" in terms of its severity.

"It was a high-speed, head-on collision. The fact anybody got out of it alive is a bit of a miracle."

Traffic diversions were lifted about 6.30pm, after police serious crash investigators finished a scene examination.

Meanwhile, motorcyclist Steven Wayne Nottingham, 59, of Christchurch, was killed in a collision with a campervan north of Haast on State Highway 6 about 1pm yesterday.

He was travelling south with one other bike when he crashed into the campervan, containing three occupants, on a winding stretch of highway.

A serious crash investigation is under way.

The Press