Te Anau police call for action on tourist crashes

Last updated 00:00 01/01/2009
BRUCE FRASER/Southland Times/Image ID 118433
AFTER THE CRASH: The Newtons bus at the site of the crash where a woman was killed after the van she was a passenger in crossed the centre line veering into the oncoming bus on Milford Rd on Sunday.

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Te Anau police are calling for action from government and local authorities to reduce the number of crashes and fatalities caused by tourists on New Zealand roads.

It follows a fatal crash on Milford Rd on Sunday involving a Mitsubishi L300 light van and a 50-seater Newtons coach, which was carrying 20 Indian tourists. The crash happened near the Gulliver's Bridge, about 15km from Milford Sound.

Te Anau sergeant Tod Hollebon said the van, driven by a 28-year-old male, was heading towards Milford when it lost control in wet conditions and spun, crossing the centre line and colliding with the coach.

The only passenger in the van, a female, died at the scene.

She was 31-year-old Corrina Virginia Alexandria Bedson, of Wales. Ms Bedson had been working at Glenorchy.

The driver, Ms Bedson's fiance, was flown to Dunedin hospital. His condition is described as serious but stable.

There were no injuries reported by coach passengers.

Mr Hollebon said Fiordland was prone to road crashes.

"Unfortunately for us here, tourists feature very, very highly in our statistics for crashes and that is a serious problem for this area," he said.

It was a high tourist area and the geography meant roads were often treacherous.

An increase in independent travel by tourists renting vehicles had also resulted in more crashes.

"It didn't used to be such a problem when tourists moved between destinations on coach tours. But with the trend towards independent travel and the huge increase with rental vehicles being used on the roads, we have new risks, which I think are at a level New Zealand's never seen before," Mr Hollebon said.

"It's something that needs to be recognised, and there needs to be work done to try and mitigate those risks." Mr Hollebon acknowledged that getting messages about driver safety through to tourists was difficult but needed to continually be reviewed by police, government agencies such as Land Transport New Zealand, rental vehicle companies, as well as tourism operators.

"(They) all need to play a role in the number of crashes involving tourists," he said.

Dunedin-based company, Citibus Ltd, owns the Newtons coach involved in the crash.

General manager Tony Collins said the driver of the coach was "one of the most experienced" the company had, but the crash was unavoidable.

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"We got a report from the police commending him (the driver) on ... that he did everything possible to avoid the accident -- and in the way he managed the scene afterwards, (he) showed a very high standard of professionalism," Mr Collins said.

The coach, a 2005 Volvo B12, was equipped with safety belts, which passengers were legally required to wear.

Southland District Te Anau ward Cr Dianne Ridley said motorists must take more care on Fiordland roads, especially the Milford Sound road.

She said it was an excellently maintained road.

However, every year there were crashes because people were negligent and underestimated dangers.

"It (Milford Sound road) is a good road, but it's not for driving fast on, and people don't probably give it the respect that it deserves," Mrs Ridley said.

Police are continuing their investigation into the cause of the crash.

Both drivers are yet to be formally interviewed and further inquiries are being carried out in relation to crash scene and the van involved.

The crash comes 10 days after 22 people had to flee a tourist bus after it caught fire near the Homer Tunnel.

 

- The Southland Times

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