Tragedy on the West Coast
Lesili Langi, 15, died alongside his motherDEIDRE MUSSEN AND JOELLE DALLY
A large Tongan family on the West Coast face a horrific start to the festive season with the mother and teenage son dead.
Police have named the victims as Lavinia Langi, 43 and Lesili Langi, 15, of Blaketown, Greymouth.
A relative said the woman's 14-year-old daughter had stayed at home to look after four of her siblings yesterday morning, including a 6-month-old baby brother.
Her mother and two brothers - one aged 15 and the other a pre-schooler - drove in the rain to Taylorville, where they went every week "for the cheap meat".
On the way back about 11am, their van careered off Taylorville Rd at a sweeping bend a few kilometres from Greymouth, in the exact spot of another fatal crash in 2010.
The car flipped and landed on its roof in a creek beside the road.
The mother, 43, and teenage son - a Greymouth High School student, died, but the three-year-old clambered free from the wreck, likely saved by his car seat.
''When witnesses got there, he was already climbing out of the van,'' a family friend said.
The boy was taken to Greymouth Hospital with only minor injuries and was discharged this morning.
"He's just got a few cuts on his body. He was running around fine this morning. They just wanted to keep him in hospital overnight to keep an eye on his.''
The woman's devastated husband, a forestry worker in Invercargill, was driven back to Greymouth by colleagues to be with his family, arriving at 3am today.
They initially drove via Haast Pass but roadworks had closed that pass so they had to turn back and drive via the East Coast and over Arthurs Pass to return to the West Coast, greatly adding time to their traumatic journey.
''They went straight to the hospital when they got here.''
The relative, who declined to be named, said the Tongan community on the West Coast was very tight-knit and shocked by the crash.
The family had moved to Greymouth about seven years ago for work, she said.
The dead woman had relatives in the North Island but her husband had a brother who had lived in Greymouth for a similar time before shifting his family to Ashburton two weeks ago.
''We were in church on Sunday and laughing together. It's hard to believe. It's such a tragedy,'' another friend said.
Visible skid marks in the grass from yesterday morning's crash pass directly over a cross on the bend in memory of Australian miner Barry Pearson, killed when his car slid on black ice there in July 2010.
Police are still investigating the cause of yesterday's crash.
- © Fairfax NZ News