Two crashes at Whakamaru and Tokoroa kill seven people

News from NZ Police
Bay of Plenty District Police today responded to two separate road crashes which claimed the lives of seven people. Five people are confirmed dead following a crash on SH32 near Whakamaru, while a further two are dead following a crash between a truck and a car between Tokoroa and Taupo on SH1.

Emergency services were called to the double fatality about 1pm which occurred about two kilometres north of Atiamuri (SH30 Eastern intersection).

The crash involving five people – two adults and three children – was discovered as roading contractors were putting diversions in place around the double fatality crash on SH1. It is not clear when that crash may have occurred.

The two crashes occurred about 30km apart, but appear to be unrelated at this stage.

Assistant Commissioner Road Policing, Dave Cliff, said the crashes were a devastating prelude to the Christmas Holiday period, which begins officially next week.

“Our thoughts are with the families of those who have died in these terrible and tragic circumstances. This is a devastating loss and a horrific start to the Christmas period, especially as we focus on trying to reduce the rising road toll and make our roads safer,” Assistant Commissioner Cliff said. “While we don’t yet know all the circumstances leading up to these crashes, it’s a sobering reminder that we all need to do our part in staying safe on the roads.

“Police will also be out in force over the coming weeks both in the lead up to and during the Christmas / New Year break, with a highly visible Police presence that will be targeting the five key factors that cause road crashes, deaths and injuries – speed, alcohol, seatbelt wearing, driver distraction and fatigue.”

Police are now able to confirm the identities of the five people found dead in the crash near Whakamaru this afternoon.

The driver of the vehicle was 23-year-old Lisa Crowley. Her partner, Richard Melling, aged 37 was the front seat passenger. In the rear of the vehicle were 11-year-old Jordan Melling, two-year-old Brody Crowley and a three-week old boy, who police believe was yet to be named. The baby was in a baby capsule. They were a blended family with Lisa the mother of the youngest of the children and Richard the father of Jordan.

Police know that they were seen at their home in Whakamaru by family and friends at 8pm on Sunday night. Their vehicle appears to have been heading towards Whakamaru suggesting that at some stage they had left the settlement to an unknown destination and were then returning. It is not clear at this stage when the crash happened and police would like to hear from anyone who knows of their movements between Sunday night and today. Police also want information from anyone who saw their vehicle a green Honda Integra in or around the area since Sunday.

The two men killed in the crash between Tokoroa and Taupo were Dilip Kataruka, aged 56 and Madhav Kataruka aged 19. The father and son were from Jharkhand in Eastern Indian. They had arrived in New Zealand on 10 December to visit family members in Auckland.