Mother's plea to young men in cars

'They think they're invincible; it's a tragic loss'

KEITH LYNCH
Last updated 14:43 30/12/2011
Mercer
GONE: Apprentice carpenter Daniel James Mercer, 20, died early on Christmas Eve.

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The mother of a 20-year-old killed in a Christmas Eve crash has urged young men to take care on the roads.

Apprentice carpenter Daniel James Mercer, 20, died early on Christmas Eve. He was the first of 11 people to lose their lives on New Zealand roads over the holiday period.

He is among three men in their 20s who died on Canterbury roads in the past week after drinking, speeding and not wearing a seatbelt.

About 4am, Mercer lost control of his car in New Brighton and ended up in the Avon River.

His mother, Susan Mercer, an intensive-care nurse at Christchurch Hospital, had planned to spend Christmas Day with her son.

"They [young men] think they're invincible and I just don't know how we change it. I see the results of accidents all the time. It's a tragic loss of young men," she said.

Daniel Mercer had recently moved to Christchurch from Dunedin and was training as a carpenter for the city's rebuild.

"It was all really just falling into place for him. His best mate from Dunedin had just moved up a few months ago as well," his mother said.

Her Burwood home, where she lived with Daniel, was badly hit by liquefaction in last week's earthquakes.

"My last memories are of him pulling up and stepping over the fence, and we just sat on the front lawn among all the liquefaction," she said.

"I just shrugged my shoulders at him and he had a big smile on his face and he went off with his mates."

The family held a memorial service in Oamaru on Wednesday.

"I think I do feel quite at peace. He lived a full life. He had a lot of fun and had a lot of wonderful friends," Mercer said.

About 2am yesterday, a 21-year-old man's car hit a pole in Ferry Rd in Woolston.

Canterbury road policing manager Inspector Al Stewart said the man had been drinking, was seen speeding and was not wearing a seatbelt. "He's lost control and hit a lamp-post and has been ejected from the vehicle.

"A passenger [female in her 20s] who was wearing a seatbelt had minor scratches and was still in the vehicle," Stewart said.

At 6.45pm on Christmas Eve, Gareth Toby Waller, 29, died after a crash in Burdon Rd in Woodbury, South Canterbury. The car left the road and rolled into the Waihi River. Waller died at the scene.

"In the last five days on Canterbury roads we've had three fatalities, which have all involved young males drunk, speeding and not wearing their seatbelts," Stewart said yesterday.

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"Three in five days is totally unacceptable. There are three more families that are grieving needlessly as these three crashes were absolutely preventable.

"It's everyone's responsibility. It's a community issue. There will have been people who have seen those guys getting behind the wheel drunk and it's everyone's job to do something about it."

Stewart said Waller was offered a ride home but refused and drove himself, while Mercer was put into a taxi after a work function but got the taxi driver to leave him at his car.

"His mates have been responsible and were looking after him and he's asked the taxi driver to drop him to his car."

Police have confirmed a second person died after a head-on collision on the West Coast on Wednesday.

About 4pm, a car and campervan collided on State Highway 6 north of Haast between Lake Paringa and Lake Moeraki. An 82-year-old man from Dunedin died at the scene and a 53-year-old woman from Germany died later.

- The Press

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