Dead woman named

TARYN UTIGER AND FAIRFAX NZ
Last updated 05:00 29/03/2014
fatal rockfall
Rob Tucker

ROCKFALL: Some of the rock remnants were as large as a dinner table.

Car wreck
ROB TUCKER
Car wreck: The vehicle which was hit by rocks. The 76-year-old was passenger died at the scene.

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The New Plymouth woman killed in freak rock slide on State Highway 3 has been named as Heather Joy Thompson, known as Joy. 

She was on her way to a family reunion with her elderly sister when their Toyota was struck with brutal force from the side.

The accident happened at about 10.30am yesterday on State Highway 3 between Mahoenui and Pio Pio.

Today messages of grief and memories of the woman have flooded onto social media.

The New Plymouth Spirtualist Church posted on their facebook page, saying the 75-year-old was a life member of the church. 

''She was on her way to a family reunion with her sister when this happened. Joy will sadly be missed by us all, she was a pillar of strength to all those that new her,'' the post said. 

"Joy helped teach those wanting to learn to be a medium and has helped many on this journey. To the family blessings to you all at this time.''

Many people took to the New Plymouth Spirtualist Church and the Taranaki Daily News Facebook pages to express their grief over the tragic event, and to share their memories of Thompson. 

Boyd Stachurski said she was ''a truly beautiful lady who helped so many people.''

''The world will be a different place without you Joy but I am sure you will continue your work from above. We will miss you,'' he said. 

She was described as a lady who had ''earned her angel wings'' and was a very accomplished spiritual healer, who had passed her knowledge onto many aspiring to be like her.

The freak accident happened yesterday when the pair were travelling from New Plymouth.

Their journey ended about 12 kilometres from Piopio. The force of the impact shunted the vehicle onto the south-bound lane and spun it 180 degrees.

There was one witness, a motorist following the pair, Pio Pio volunteer fire brigade station officer Tama Williams said.

"He just said he didn't even notice the rocks coming. All of a sudden they bounced out into this car and the car got bounced out into the other lane.

"He didn't see it coming from above or anything.

"The rock remnants were as large as a dinner table," said Mr Williams, whose crew was the first emergency service on the scene.

Mr Williams said on his arrival two motorists were giving the injured woman first aid.

"We did some quick first aid until the ambulance arrived five minutes later, but [the passenger] was pronounced dead then."

New Plymouth-based photo journalist Rob Tucker came across the scene en route to Taupo and estimated there were tonnes of debris on the road.

He said a digger was parked close by and speculated it may have been used to clear previous rock falls from the same bluff.

"That tells me that that rock face had been crumbling for some time and, I'm presuming, they'd been clearing it away bit by bit," he said.

"Why hadn't anyone actually had a good inspection of the cliff and [said] this is incredibly dangerous?

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"It would take some geologist five seconds to say this is all going to come down. "

Mr Williams said rocks half the size of a car had fallen onto that section of SH3 over the years, yet no one had ever been hit until now.

He said you could clearly see the spot where this chunk fell off the vast cliff overhead.

NZ Transport Agency media manager Glenda Dobbyn would not comment on the presence of the roadside digger, saying they were waiting for the police report on the matter.

However, she issued a written statement, saying SH3 was monitored regularly for rock fall activity, as the nature of the topography and geological landscape made it prone to instability.

Specialist NZTA geotechnical assessors were on-site last night to assess the state of the rock face.

State Highway 3 between Mahoenui and Pio Pio had now re-opened to a single lane with manual stop/go traffic control in place, NZTA said.

- Taranaki Daily News

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