Family and friends in vigil for crash victims

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 04/01/2014

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An infant injured in a major crash on the Napier-Taupo Road has improved in hospital, where relatives have kept vigil at the bedsides of the eight casualties.

Jarnail Singh, who has known the family for more than 20 years, said the injured had been receiving visits and messages of support from the Indian community in Hawke's Bay and across the country since the accident early on Thursday.

They were injured when a van, being driven by Sundeep Singh, left the Napier-Taupo Road and plunged down a 10-metre bank near Te Haroto at 6.45am.

Sundeep and two friends had departed Havelock North in the van at 2pm on Wednesday.

They collected Sundeep's Melbourne-based brother Jagtar and his wife and three children from Auckland Airport early Thursday morning and were returning home.

It had been suggested by some rescue personnel that Sundeep may have fallen asleep at the wheel.

But police said early indications were he was awake at the time of the crash and loss of control was a major factor.

Despite being badly injured, Sundeep somehow escaped the van, pulled others from the wreckage, carried 5-month-old Manmeet up to the road, and flagged down a passing car.

Former Sikh priest and family friend Gurmeet Singh said he was called to hold prayer vigil with the family on Thursday night, to help give them strength.

"It's very tragic and a very traumatic time for the family, and it could happen to anyone - an accident is an accident . . . We are with them."

Senior Sergeant Stuart Fleming said it was too early to be certain of the accident's cause - the van's occupants were yet to be interviewed.

" The investigation will look at all factors, including whether fatigue, speed or alcohol were factors."

Jarnail Singh said Sundeep's sisters and father had been at Hawke's Bay Hospital since shortly after the group were admitted.

"This is a very well-known and respected family and the whole Sikh community is feeling very strongly for them," Singh said.

"Jagtar and his baby boy Manmeet are still not out of the woods. The others appear to be in better health."

The infant, Manmeet, had improved from critical to serious but stable yesterday.

Jagtar Singh, aged in his 30s, was in a critical condition in intensive care. His wife Sukhwinder, also in her 30s, was serious but stable.

Daughters Jaspreet, 9, and Amureet, 8, were stable and serious but stable respectively.

Sundeep, 33, and his friends Nihal Singh, 23, and Satvir Singh, 23, were all stable.

Jagtar, who was raised in Hawke's Bay, was bringing his family home to celebrate the Lohri, held every January 13 to commemorate the birth of a boy, or a marriage.

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- The Dominion Post

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