Region's car carnage

MARYANNE TWENTYMAN AND ANGELA CUMING
Last updated 05:00 17/11/2012

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Emergency services are lamenting what seems to be a never-ending stream of fatal crashes that have so far claimed close to 40 lives in Waikato this year.

And as another Waikato family prepares to bury our latest fatality, Victim Support chief executive Tony Paine has blasted what he sees as the Kiwi careless driving mentality.

"We tend to be very nice, relaxed and laidback folks and then we get behind the wheel of a car and have a complete personality change.

"We will do all sorts of dangerous things and can't bear to be behind another car and needlessly overtake."

The Waikato has the country's highest road toll - with 39 dead so far this year.

And with the holiday season just around the corner, emergency services are gearing up for their most heartbreaking time of year.

St John Hamilton operations team manager Cath Shannon said the holiday season always provided tense moments for emergency workers.

"Certainly the frequency of fatalities seems to increase and it makes [emergency workers] think of their own family unit, particularly at that time of year."

The latest fatality occurred on Thursday night when a disqualified learner driver got behind the wheel of a Subaru Impreza with four passengers, including two children.

The 43-year-old Huntly woman was killed when she failed to negotiate a bend on Old Taupiri Rd and smashed through a fence. A 47-year-old Taupiri woman travelling in the car remained in a critical condition in Waikato Hospital last night while three other passengers, a man and two children, escaped serious injury.

Waikato road policing manager Inspector Leo Tooman said the message was simple.

"Speed, booze and belts," he said.

"Keep the speed down, leave the booze alone and belt up - if people would just drive to the conditions and keep people safe we wouldn't have an issue."

Mr Tooman said Thursday's crash could have been far worse given that the vehicle crashed through a property and landed on a trampoline.

"That crash happened about 6.30pm - what if there had been children playing, what then? It's pretty frustrating."

When it comes to a fatal crash Mr Paine said there were two types of first aid - physical and emotional.

"When we arrive on the scene we get to work helping people deal with the immediate shock and trauma of what's happened," he said.

But no amount of training, or kind words, can prepare either the volunteers or the victims of a car crash for the "bloody violence" it brings.

"It's hard to comprehend the chaos, the sheer violence, of a bad car crash," he said.

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"They are terrible, terrible things."

Waikato District fire commander Roy Breeze said everybody had a role to play in keeping the roads safe.

"I see first hand some of the horrors on the road, its pretty close to my heart when I'm driving around with my family in the car," he said.

Mr Breeze attended a crash on Ohaupo Rd this week that left a volunteer ambulance officer seriously injured with multiple fractures to both legs and pelvis.

Police are still searching for a distinctive light-green, older model Ford Falcon that may have caused the crash on State Highway 3, north of Ohaupo, about 4.40pm on Wednesday.

Rochelle Andrews, 27, had just spent the day in Te Awamutu doing promotional work ahead of the official opening of Jett's Gym on November 24, where she planned to work as a personal trainer.

Returning to Hamilton, Miss Andrews had just overtaken a van when an older green Ford Falcon sedan began to follow her car closely, according to police.

As she moved back into the left-hand lane, the driver of the Falcon cut sharply in front of her, causing her to lose control and cross the centreline into the path of an oncoming car.

Miss Andrews and a female driver of the other car were critically injured.

Mrs Shannon said it was always "shocking" when staff arrived to find one of their colleagues so badly injured.

"It does take on a new meaning, it's personal, but we just have to set that aside and keep doing our job," she said.

Mrs Shannon commended the staff on scene who did "a wonderful job".

"One of the first people to arrive soon after the crash was one of our medically trained senior managers, and an ambulance crewed by event staff arrived soon after," she said.

Ambulances from Te Awamutu and Hamilton were sent to the scene where the senior officer, an advanced paramedic, had personally trained Miss Andrews to become an ambulance officer.

Miss Andrews, who was back in surgery yesterday, has worked as a volunteer for St John since 2008 and is a regular member of the Chartwell St John team.

"She certainly has a long road ahead in terms of rehabilitation.

"But she has good support and we are all there for her," Mrs Shannon told the Waikato Times.

- Waikato Times

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