NZ's road toll reaches 5
A crash has "ripped the heart out" of two close-knit Sumner families after a Dutch tourist allegedly ploughed through a stop sign at Rakaia.
Sally Vanessa Summerfield, 49, her daughter, Ella Yasmin Summerfield, 12, and her daughter's friend Abigail "Abi" Ann Hone, 12, all died after the car driven by the 52-year-old male tourist apparently failed to give way and crashed into the left-hand side of their vehicle about 4pm on Saturday.
Sally's husband, Shane Summerfield, 48, who had been driving, was flown by Westpac rescue helicopter to Christchurch Hospital with serious head, chest and abdominal injuries - where he remained in a serious but stable condition yesterday supported by his surviving son and extended family.
Two other fatal accidents around New Zealand have brought the Queen's Birthday road toll to five. An Auckland woman was killed after crashing head-on into a campervan driven by a foreign tourist that crossed the centre line near Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula.
On the outskirts of the Tararua town of Eketahuna, Adrian James "AJ" Ihaka, 36, of Eketahuna, died when his car crashed into a lamp-post on Saturday night. Police said speed and alcohol likely played a part in the crash.
HEADING FOR HOLIDAY
Summerfield's group had been on their way to Ohau for a holiday when they were hit on Thompson's Track at the intersection with Somerton Rd in Rakaia, north of Ashburton.
The Dutch tourist, treated for minor injuries at Ashburton Hospital, has been charged with three counts of careless driving causing death and one count of careless driving causing injury.
A Hone and Summerfield family friend, Wyn Mossman, could not believe the devastating crash had claimed the lives of his close friends and left his business partner seriously injured.
He had gone for a walk with Sally and Ella Summerfield the night before, and Abi Hone had been at his house last week.
"Ella was a star of a person. She was a gorgeous gorgeous girl," he said.
"Abi was a bloody character. She was gorgeous."
Canterbury road policing manager Al Stewart said the tourist's driving was "absolutely unacceptable", but that Shane Summerfield was "doing everything right".
Given the weather conditions at the time, and visibility available to the driver travelling on Somerton Rd, "there is no reason at all why he shouldn't have seen the vehicle on Thompson's Track".
Senior Sergeant Scott Banfield, of Ashburton, said two road policing officers were patrolling that strip of road and were parked on the side of the road when the crash happened.
"It's something that has ripped the heart out of a couple of families."
Abi's dad, Trevor Hone, did not wish to talk yesterday.
But her mother, Lucy Hone, said of the girls: "They were the very best of friends." Abi was survived by two older brothers.
Pupils at their previous school, Sumner School, were being supported by grief counsellors.
Abi and Ella were both in year 8 at Rangi Ruru Girls' School and St Margaret's College respectively.
Rangi Ruru Girls' School principal Julie Moor said Abi had received an Endeavour Award for her hard work on Friday. Her classmates' parents had been notified of her death.
"The whole school community is deeply shocked by such a tragedy," she said. "She [Abi] was such a gorgeous girl who was full of potential."
According to Sumner locals, both families were well respected in the community. There was a big gathering on Sumner Esplanade yesterday for the girls' friends to be together with their parents. "All the kids were finding out and were really upset. Everyone is incredibly devastated," a mother said.
A Facebook page was set up to mourn the girls. "Gone to early and will never be forgotten well heaven has two more angels now rest in peace," one wrote.
A neighbour said Abi was "an outgoing lovely bubbly gorgeous girl".
"It will completely rock the community. It's just the Hones are a well known identity in Sumner. They are both good community people. They do everything for everyone else."
Police wanted to thank the members of the public who had the "courage to intervene" and stop to help at the scene of the crash.
Four of the five killed on New Zealand's roads this Queen's Birthday were involved in crashes with foreign drivers.
The increasing trend of fatal crashes involving tourists has been in the spotlight recently with police national headquarters and the Ministry of Transport discussing a possible law change regarding tourists driving in New Zealand.
Foreign drivers are entitled to drive with an international licence, or a country-of-origin licence, if that country is a signatory to a United Nations convention guaranteeing driving rights.
In 1998, 0.3 per cent of fatal crashes nationally involved drivers with an overseas licence, while in 2012 it was 5 per cent and, last year, it was 6.4 per cent.
- The Press