Three deaths, time to 'raise the red flag'

DEIDRE MUSSEN
Last updated 17:34 18/12/2013
Barry Pearson crash site
DEIDRE MUSSEN/ Fairfax NZ
CRASH SITE: A cross by a highway marker shows the point where Barry Pearson crashed in 2010.

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The widow of an Australian miner killed on the same bend where two people died on the West Coast on Monday has called for urgent action to prevent further deaths.

Barry Pearson, 55, of New South Wales, died in July 2010 when the car he was driving slid on ice on the bend. It flipped down a bank in Taylorville Rd, a few kilometres from Greymouth.

His passenger and work colleague, Mark Baggs, suffered serious spinal injuries in the crash.

Pearson's widow, Chris Pearson, was horrified to hear today that Tongan mother of seven Lavinia Langi and her teenage son, Lesili, 15, had died at the same spot as her husband.

Langi, 43, was driving their van in heavy rain when it careered off the road about 11am and flipped down the bank into a creek. Another son, aged 3, survived the crash.

"It's so sad another family will have to go through what our family has had to and to think it is a mother of seven. That's devastating," Pearson said.

She called for the Greymouth District Council to make changes to the road, such as putting up a guardrail, to prevent another fatality in that spot.

"Three lives to be lost in the same spot raises the red flag."

Baggs, who still suffers weak upper-body strength from the spinal injuries and had his bid to sue his Australian employer dismissed by the Supreme Court last week, was also shocked to hear that two more people had died there.

He agreed a review of the corner's safety was needed.

"I would think a barrier could help."

The pair had been on their way to Pike River coalmine to run a training course when they crashed about 6am on July 12, 2010.

Pearson died at the scene, but Baggs extricated himself from the wreck. He tried to clamber up the bank to wave down help but was too badly injured and kept rolling back down.

Passing motorists spotted the crash scene several hours later.

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said today a review of the road would be done as soon as possible.

"It does need a review of that spot to see if they need to improve on it so we don't get any repeats. Our heart goes out to these families."

A truck rolled on the road yesterday but a few kilometres closer to Taylorville than Monday's fatal scene.

Changes to the road's signs and reflective road markers were made after Pearson's crash, which the coroner noted in his written findings released in June last year.

Greymouth police said today investigations into Monday's crash were ongoing.

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Detective Sergeant Gavin Nichols said motorists reached the scene either as soon as it occurred or immediately afterwards and bravely tried to rescue all three occupants from the partially submerged vehicle.

They plucked the 3-year-old boy from the water, but were unable to save the other two, he said.

A service for Lavinia and Lesili Langi will be held in the Greymouth High School hall at 2pm on Friday before a burial service in Auckland.

- Stuff

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