Couple killed in triple fatal Southland crash were 'amazing parents'

kavinda Herath / stuff

Suzanne Harvey was one of the first at the scene of the fatal crash in Dipton on Sunday night.

The family of an Invercargill couple killed in a triple-fatal head-on crash are rallying to support their two orphaned children.

Jesse and Samantha Shortland and their two children were about 45 minutes from home after attending his father's funeral when their car collided with an oncoming car about 9.40pm on Sunday.

The couple died at the scene. The driver and sole occupant of the other car, 22-year-old German tourist Marina Liebl, also died. The trio were among 14 people who have died on New Zealand roads since Friday. 

Jesse Shortland, left, and Samantha Shortland died in a head-on crash in Southland. Their two young children survived.

Jesse Shortland, left, and Samantha Shortland died in a head-on crash in Southland. Their two young children survived.

The Shortlands' 8-month-old daughter Skylar and 2-year-old son Heath were pulled from their car seats at the crash scene. The toddler had moderate injuries, while the baby had minor injuries.

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Jesse Shortland's sister Krystal-Leigh Shortland said the family was still coming to grips with what had happened. The couple had been in Hokitika to attend her and Jesse Shortland's father's funeral.

Suzanne Harvey was one of the first at the scene of the fatal crash on the Dipton Winton Highway on Sunday night.

Suzanne Harvey was one of the first at the scene of the fatal crash on the Dipton Winton Highway on Sunday night.

"It seems like I'm living a dream. It's hard to accept what's happening at the moment. I don't think it's quite hit me just yet," Krystal-Leigh Shortland said.

"It's pretty sad with how this has all come about, especially with losing Dad only last week as well. It's a bit of a shock to the system."

The family's main focus was looking after the couple's children. A Givealittle page had been created, with all proceeds to go into a joint account for the children to help with ongoing costs.

Police examine the scene of the fatal crash in Dipton that took place on Sunday night.

Police examine the scene of the fatal crash in Dipton that took place on Sunday night.

It was unclear what would happen with the children. But, they would stay with the family, Shortland said.

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"They are being well looked after."

She said the couple had moved from Brisbane to "start a new life" in Invercargill about three months ago.

Her brother had been her "first best friend".

"He was a really caring man. Since he became a dad he was even extra caring and loving as well."

Unable to make the couple's wedding, Krystal-Leigh Shortland met her sister-in-law for the first time on Friday.

"She was such a beautiful, carefree person.

"They were amazing parents. The love between the two of them for the children was just amazing. They were so caring and so open with them."

The last time she saw the couple was about 9.30am on Sunday when she left her father's Hokitika home.

The family had spoken to police, who said there was no evidence yet to suggest what went wrong.

"It's still under investigation and we don't really want to be pointing fingers," Krystal-Leigh Shortland said.

The family wanted to say "a huge thank you" to everyone for the support they had received, she said.

"I've been following the articles on Facebook and all the support from people we don't even know is just amazing.

"The family are all pretty upset, but the amount of love that's going around the family is very reassuring."

Jesse Shortland's aunt, former New Zealand First MP Ria Bond, said on Monday she was meant to be in the car with the couple, but her plans had changed.

"Our family are just devastated by the triple tragedy over the weekend … we're pretty broken as a family right now," she said.

So far this year 297 people have died on New Zealand roads, compared with 253 at the same time in 2016.

On Tuesday four people, including a 5-year-old boy, were killed and another eight people were injured after a horrific head-on collision near Taupō.

National road policing manager Superintendent Steve Greally told Radio New Zealand on Wednesday morning that he could not believe the carnage that had happened in the last 72 hours.

He said there were peaks and troughs, but road trauma was trending up and it was more than a mere spike.

"I wish it was a spike, but it's not a spike as we understand it. The trend is quite clear –in the last four years road trauma has increased in this country."

 - Stuff

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