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Four East Cape family members die in two crashes a month apart – ‘Incomprehensible tragedy’

Four members of the same family have died in two separate crashes just a month apart but in nearly identical circumstances in what is being described as an “incomprehensible” tragedy.

A woman and two of her children were killed this morning after her vehicle left State Highway 35 just north of Te Araroa, hit a tree and rolled.

The crash occurred in exactly the same spot as another just over a month ago, where the Herald understands a family member of the two children and woman died.

The four deaths in the space of a month have left the small, tight-knit community of about 200 people where “everybody knows each other” reeling.

“We are absolutely devastated,” says community leader Ani Pahuru-Huriwai.

“It’s a real tragedy, and when word reached us who was involved… it’s just even more of a tragedy.”

Emergency services responded to today’s crash, near Tokata Rd just past Karakatuwhero Bridge, about 5.45am.

The four-wheel-drive Land Cruiser vehicle was on its roof on the side of the road when the first fire crew arrived.

Te Araroa and Tikitiki firefighters responded, along with police. St John ambulance from Ruatoria was also called out.

St John officers pronounced the victims dead at the scene.

Pahuru-Huriwai confirmed the victims were from the same whānau as the crash on October 15 which happened in the same place, but declined to comment further as police had not yet formally released their names.

Te Araroa fire chief Dick Cook attended both crashes and knew the whānau personally.

“It was exactly the same place, the same tree,” he told the Herald.

It was “too soon” to provide any further details and he did not want to say anything about the whānau before police released their names.

“We are in a small rural area, everybody knows everybody. It’s really tough, but the hardest part is having to just turn around and go off to your real job.”

Pahuru-Huriwai said it had been a tough period for the small community.

“I’ve been in touch with the wider whānau today, and all are devastated. It is incomprehensible what has happened.

“The family will be sorely missed in our community. We have had a lot of death this year.

“And any death is a tragedy but when it involves our children, close members of a family, it is very hard to find the words to express the pain our community is feeling.

“I don’t think in my lifetime we will have had a tangi like this, three on the marae.”

Pahuru-Huriwai said they were also concerned for the welfare of their first responders.

“By the very nature of their jobs they are all connected to the people involved in this accident and the previous one.

“I’d like to say for everybody to just take care of each other, and be careful on the road.

“This is not the kind of accident that happens every day, and to have this happen so soon after the last one is quite unimaginable.”

The road was closed this morning but reopened this afternoon.

The police Serious Crash Unit from Gisborne is investigating.

A police spokeswoman said there was no update, and they were not yet ready to release names of the victims.

Gisborne mayor Rehette Stoltz said there’s a sombre mood across the East Coast community following this morning’s tragedy.

“They had a death a while ago and then this today, so everyone is hurting and are sending support to the family involved”.
She said she was aware of the people involved but wouldn’t confirm who they were and whether the two crashes were connected until it was officially confirmed.

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