French tourists are thought to be among the dead in a horrific crash that killed four people in heavy fog on Saturday night in the Waikato.
The victims were among eight people who died in road crashes in just 24 hours at the weekend.
Witnesses to the aftermath of the Waikato smash have told of screams for help from two passengers trapped in a wrecked car.
Two others were transported to Waikato Hospital. One is now in a critical condition in intensive care and the other is serious and in a high-dependency unit. A Waikato District Health Board spokeswoman said they are in their 30s.
The two-car crash happened on State highway 2 near Netherton, on the Hauraki Plains, about 7.40pm. Those on the scene, including a man who rushed to help two people trapped in one of the cars, said they encountered a “giant orange fireball” and heard screams coming from one of the cars.
Marcia Audain and her partner Roger Farley were heading back to Waiuku when they came across the foggy crash site where a car was on fire.
Ms Audain said a truck driver yelled to them, “I need help, I need help”. The next moment the burning car “just exploded”.
“It was the worst thing I have experienced,” she said.
“The force of the explosion sent the truck driver flying down the bank.”
Mr Farley and Ms Audain then realised there was another car down the bank. Mr Farley ran down the bank to the other vehicle and saw there were two people moving.
He forced the doors open and
called out for a knife to cut the seatbelts.
“My first thought was get the door open and get them out. I called out for a knife to get the two guys I could see alive out,” Mr Farley said.
“They were in a bad way but one said, ‘No English’ and I asked where he was from and he said France.”
“I just wanted to keep them talking. I was trying to get the one who was more awake to talk to his mate who wasn’t; his eyes were rolling back.”
Mr Farley said the time until emergency services arrived was a blur.
“There was four or five of us helping to get them out, some up to their knees in mud.”
Mr Farley said he did not know first aid so just worked at keeping the men alert.
Hamish Anderson, who was travelling home to Auckland with his wife, was behind one of the cars involved in the crash.
He said heavy fog meant visibility was reduced to about 20m.
“I’m pretty shaken up,” he said.
“The thought that me and my wife were three or four cars back and another 500m it could have been us. And then seeing people like that . . .”
Mr Anderson arrived on the scene seconds after the crash.
“There were screams not from the car that was in flames they must have already been dead but from the car that was in the ditch,” he said.
“A few of us tried to get close but the other car was still exploding literally explosions coming from the vehicle.”
Four people died in three other crashes.
On Friday night, a Gisborne woman died after she was struck by a car on Cobden Street, in the city, just after 11pm.
A woman died in a crash on State highway 10 at Kaingaroa, north of Kaitaia, about 12.30pm on Saturday. One other woman and two children in the same car were taken to hospital.
Two young men were killed in a crash north of Auckland early on Saturday.
Ricky Barker, 18, and Andre Ahman, 20, died on Saturday when their vehicle collided with another car in a semi-rural area on Dairy Flat Highway just after 1am.
A man in his 20s who was travelling in the second vehicle was also seriously injured in the crash and flownd to Auckland City Hospital, where his condition had stabilised, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Road policing manager Inspector Trevor Beggs called the accident a “very difficult scene”.
He said one vehicle had crossed into the path of the other in the high-speed crash.
“This is very sad, and a tragic and unnecessary loss of life.
“Two families from our community are now devastated at the loss of these two young men.” NZME-NZN