Scene of double fatality 'like a bomb site'
A policeman yesterday described the "horrendous" vision as he arrived at the scene of a crash in which a van ran into a group of motorcyclists near Normanby.
Two bikers taking part in a round-the-mountain toy run for charity were killed and six people taken to hospital in the Saturday carnage.
Highway patrolman Sergeant Stephen Richardson was the first officer to arrive at the scene of the crash, taking the role of incident controller.
"The northbound van collided with a group of motorcyclists travelling south.
"It was a horrendous sight," he said.
He described the scene as a "mangled mess of damaged motorcycles", while the front of the van was wrecked.
"It looked like a large bomb site."
The dead bikers are Kelly Richard Reardon, 40, of Waitara, who was leading a group of riders, and Gordon Thomas McKay, 68, of Bell Block.
They were taking part in the annual Round the Mountain Toy Run when a northbound van ploughed into them just north of the Normanby overbridge about 12.04pm.
The driver of the van, a 24-year-old man from Whanganui, is in a critical condition.
He was flown to Waikato Hospital early yesterday morning and remains in the hospital's intensive care unit.
He was trapped in the van which was hit by one of the four motorcycles which went down in the crash.
However, the van was not overtaking at the time as had been reported in some media, Mr Richardson said.
In the van were seven Wanganui people travelling north with friends in another following vehicle. All were heading to the Ferndene Speedway skids starting at 1pm that afternoon.
Saturday's double fatality took this year's Taranaki road toll to 16 and came on the day this newspaper published a major front-page report on Taranaki's "Highways of heartbreak."
Apart from the Normanby double tragedy, four other people died on New Zealand's roads on Saturday amd one on Sunday.
Officer in charge of the Normanby investigation, Detective Sergeant Gerard Bouterey, of the Stratford police, declined to comment on the complex crash scene until the Serious Crash Unit completed its inquiry.
Mr Bouterey urged anyone who took part in the ride or saw the van leading up to the crash to get in contact with them.
Normanby Fibreglass Ltd owner Paul Schrader was one of the first on the scene.
"It was just catastrophic," he said.
"There were guys off their motorbikes all over the place."
Mr Schrader said he had tried to get the van off one of the bikers using a forklift.
"Natural instinct was to try and get the guy from underneath the van, but there was a general consensus not to do it."
Bikers Rights Organisation New Zealand member and organiser Murray Heal said it was tough to see yet another accident at the event.
"We had a serious accident two or three years ago but since then there's been nothing."
In 2009 a woman was seriously injured when she crashed into the trailer of an oncoming truck after crossing the centre line near Okato.
A year earlier another toy run rider collided with a car at Oaonui, near Opunake, breaking his arm.
And in 1998, four motorcycle riders were injured in a high-speed crash at Puniho during the toy run.
Biker Erin Field said of all the crashes over the years it wasn't usually the bikers at fault.
"It's normally cars that cause it," he said. "People that don't ride bikes don't realise, we have our lights on and everything but they just cut you off and pull out in front of you."
Emergency services, including Hawera police, ambulances and the Taranaki Community Rescue Helicopter were all called in to assist.
The road was blocked for more than five hours for the clean-up and investigation to be carried out.
St John operations manager Ian May said emergency services were stretched by the large number of injured. "It was a significant accident and posed a significant challenge for emergency services, and a tragedy all round," he said.
On Saturday afternoon, many of the riders finished the toy run in honour of their fallen friends.
The toy run is held each year with toys donated to the Salvation Army to be distributed to the under-privileged children.
NORMANBY CRASH TOLL
Two bikers dead at the scene. 24-year-old driver of the van from Whanganui in critical condition in Waikato Hospital. 62-year-old man assisting with CPR at the scene suffered a heart attack and is in intensive care at Taranaki Base Hospital. 42-year-old man awaiting transfer to Middlemore Hospital, Auckland. Two men, aged 22 and 27, with moderate injuries both in wards at Taranaki Base Hospital. 21-year-old man treated and discharged.
Five other people died on the roads at the weekend.
Early on Saturday, a 21-year-old Bay of Plenty farmer died after the motorbike he was on collided with a car. The incident happened on SH1 near Opotiki at 5am.
At 4pm on Saturday, a man died after a three-car crash north of the Prescott Rd/SH1 roundabout in Ruakaka, Northland.
The man was driving one of the vehicles involved in the crash.
A fourth motorcyclist was killed about 10.20pm on Saturday when he failed to take a bend in Taumarunui.
The sixth person to die crashed their car into a shed near Paeroa late on Saturday night.
Another person, and the fifth motorcyclist, was killed about 7pm on Sunday, when their motorcycle crashed on SH1 at Rangiriri, in Waikato. Another person was taken to Middlemore Hospital with minor injuries. No other vehicles were involved.
Taranaki Daily News