Anger after accident on overbridge

LAIRD HARPER
Last updated 05:00 14/09/2012

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There is more anger in South Taranaki as another family picks up the pieces of a car crash on the Normanby overbridge.

On Wednesday, Maria Hemara-Wahanui and a man were taken to Taranaki Base Hospital after the cars they were driving collided in icy conditions.

Mrs Hemara-Wahanui's car spun on the ice, hit the side of the bridge and bounced back into the oncoming car.

The 37-year-old suffered a broken collarbone while the man, 26, received moderate injuries.

It was the second crash in the area since the New Zealand Transport Agency gave money to New Plymouth's Waiwhakaiho bridge ahead of the Normanby project.

Mrs Hemara's mother-in-law, Te Rawanake Hemara, told the Taranaki Daily News yesterday her daughter-in-law wasn't speeding, wasn't on drugs and had no need to rush.

"Sure the conditions weren't the best but a bridge should still be safe.

"Before they hopped onto the bridge they were safe. If it was a straight bit of road there wouldn't have been a problem."

She said the time for talk and statistics was over.

"It needs to be fixed now before there is another death, not after," she said.

"We don't need to compare it to Waiwhakaiho - they need their bridge and we need ours."

Instead of a multimillion dollar, 4.5km diversion, there will be a series of yet to be decided safety improvements at the bridge and its approaches.

Anti-overbridge campaigner Andy Beccard said it was time to stop blaming driver error and face up to the reality of how dangerous that bridge was.

"If it was always the driver's fault it would be happening all over our roads but it keeps happening there."

Mr Beccard said he was at a loss as to how to move forward on the issue.

"Words have just about run their course. We have tried and tried to make people see sense."

He said the fact about $2 million spent on planning and land purchases for the bridge would now sit idle was frustrating.

Last week, NZTA central region director Jenny Chetwynd said the majority of the land will be retained for replacing the bridge in the future.

However, they expected to get another 10 years out of it.

A $4.5m package has been set aside to strengthen bridges on South Taranaki roads and on State Highway 3 which will allow more heavy vehicles to travel from South Taranaki to Port Taranaki.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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