Child escapes wreck that killed mother and brother

DEIDRE MUSSEN
Last updated 11:19 17/12/2013

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A toddler climbed out of a car after a crash that killed his mother and teenage brother on the West Coast.

The mother's 14-year-old daughter stayed at home to look after four of her siblings yesterday morning, including a 6-month-old baby brother, while her mother and two brothers, one aged 15 and the other a pre-schooler, drove in the rain to Taylorville, a relative said today.

''They go there every week for the cheap meat.''

On the way back at about 11am, their van careered off Taylorville Road at a sweeping bend a few kilometres from Greymouth, in the exact spot of another fatal crash in 2010.

The van flipped and landed on its roof in a creek beside the road.

The mother, 43, and teenage son, a Greymouth High School student, died but the youngster, aged 3, clambered free from the wreck, likely saved by his car seat.

''When witnesses got there, he was already climbing out of the van,'' a family friend said.

The boy was taken to Greymouth Hospital with only minor injuries and was discharged this morning.

''He's just got a few cuts on his body. He was running around fine this morning. They just wanted to keep him in hospital overnight to keep an eye on him.''

The woman's devastated husband, a forestry worker in Invercargill, was driven back to Greymouth by colleagues to be with his family and only arrived at 3am today.

They initially drove via Haast Pass but roadworks had closed that pass so they had to turn back and drive via the East Coast and over Arthurs Pass to return to the West Coast, greatly adding time to their traumatic journey.

''They went straight to the hospital when they got here.''

The relative, who declined to be named, said the Tongan community on the West Coast was very tight-knit and shocked by the crash, particularly only a week before Christmas.

The family had moved to Greymouth about 7 years ago for work, she said.

The dead woman had relatives in the North Island but her husband had a brother who had lived in Greymouth for a similar time before shifting his family to Ashburton two weeks ago.

''We were in church on Sunday and laughing together. It's hard to believe. It's such a tragedy,'' another friend said.

Visible skid marks in the grass from yesterday morning's crash pass directly over a cross on the bend in memory of Australian miner Barry Pearson, killed when his car slid on black ice there in July 2010, seriously injuring his passenger.

Police were still investigating the crash's cause.

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- The Press

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