Friends pray for crash victim

Last updated 09:49 21/09/2012
Kirsten Steinke and Kenneth Kallan Stithem
JUST MARRIED: Kirsten Steinke and Kenneth Kallan Stithem.
CRASH: A car collided with a cement mixer at the State Highway 3 intersection with Waitomo Caves at 9.20am.
CRASH: A car collided with a cement mixer at the State Highway 3 intersection with Waitomo Caves at 9.20am.

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A colleague of an American honeymooner fighting for her life after a car crash near Waitomo Caves that killed her husband says her workmates are praying for her recovery.

Twenty-eight-year-old Colorado woman Kirsten Steinke, is today in a critical condition in Waikato Hospital after the crash which claimed the life of her husband Kenneth Kallan Stithem.

The couple had married four days ago in the United States and were holidaying in New Zealand. 

Ms Steinke worked as a marketing and communications co-ordinator at the University of Colorado Foundation. Foundation communications manager Jeremy Simon told the Waikato Times news of the tragedy was sparse in the couple’s home area but starting to spread. He confirmed Ms Steinke and Mr Stithem, known as Kallan, were recently married.

‘‘Kirsten is still with us...The thoughts and prayers of all the people at the University of Colorado Foundation are with Kirsten and Kallan’s family and friends.’’

‘‘Out of respect for the families involved that’s all I can say.’’

It is understood they spent Wednesday blackwater rafting and joking with the chef at Curly's Bar in Waitomo. 

Police said the couple overtook a stationary green vehicle on the left-hand side on Waitomo Caves Rd, that was giving way at the intersection, and then turned right towards Te Kuiti into the path of the northbound truck about 9.20am. 

Mr Stithem, 31, was killed and his wife was cut out of the car by fire crews, before being taken to Waikato Hospital by air ambulance. 

The pair's family had been notified, but police couldn't say whether they were on their way to New Zealand. 

The chef at Curly's Bar, Bridget Brown, was equally shocked by the accident, after having met the couple on Wednesday evening. 

"They joked about how each year they put a map on the table and a member of the family gets to pick a destination and this year it was the wife who chose New Zealand - the next morning they crashed into a truck." 

The intersection is a busy one, used by motorists visiting the Waitomo Caves village, and locals, including Brown, regard it as an accident black spot. 

Ross O'Halloran, a tour guide at The Legendary Blackwater Rafting Company, uses the intersection a dozen times a week, driving to work from his Te Kuiti home. 

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"You take your life in your own hands every time you pull out of there, " he said. "It's a dangerous intersection. You really have to give it some stick to get out of there to get in with the traffic. 

"People go on about how it is tourists, they sometimes end up on the other side of the road, but the locals don't slow down, " O'Halloran said. 

US embassy spokesman David Edginton expressed deepest condolences to the honeymooners' family and friends. He said consular officers from Auckland were in contact with the families and were providing assistance. Police were asking for the driver of the green vehicle to make contact, along with anyone else who may have witnessed the crash. 

Anyone with further information was asked to contact Constable Kent Morrissey of the Waikato serious crash unit on 07-850 7050

- Waikato Times

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