Relatives, schoolmates and friends are remembering the victims of a horrific road crash in New Zealand that killed seven people representing three generations of one family, including a baby.
Seven of nine people in a van died instantly when it strayed onto the wrong side of the road and collided head-on with a semi-trailer after being driven overnight to get from nearly one end of the country to the other.
School teacher Paul Brown, 61, his Filipino wife Diseree Brown, 48, and their son Mark, 14, all died along with Diseree’s sister Divine Dolar, 56, and Divine’s daughter Flordeliza Dolar, 19.
Crash victims Diseree Brown (fourth from left) and Paul Brown flank Paul Brown’s mother (centre in brown coat). Flordeliza Dolar (left), Divine Dolar were also killed in the crash along with baby, Mika Clariman being held. Mark Lagud (front, blue jacket) also lost his life. Pedro Clariman and Luie Lagud survived the crash but Luie is in a coma and will undergo surgery
Two of Diseree’s sons Pedro Clariman, 26, and Luie Lagud, 16, survived but Luie was in a coma and is undergoing surgery.
Pedro is in a stable condition but his wife died alongside their daughter Mika, only nine to 10 months old.
Diseree has three other children who did not travel and are devastated by the huge loss of their family members.
Mark was a Year 10 student of Pukekohe High School outside Auckland, where Luie also attends in Year 11.
The school’s principal Richard Barnett sent an email on Monday to parents informing them of his death.
The mangled remains of the van that hit a refrigerated semi-trailer head-on in New Zealand which claimed the lives of a school teacher and his relatives who were associated with the Filipino community in the region of Auckland
Police said early indications suggest the van crossed the centre line into oncoming traffic
‘His older brother, in Year 11, remains in hospital. Our thoughts and condolences are with their family and close friends,’ he wrote.
Barnett told Stuff the school was ‘deeply affected’ by the crash and the two boys were part of a ‘beautiful family’.
Paul Brown taught autistic children at Parkside Specialist School in Pukekohe.
The school’s principal Carol Willard said staff and students were ‘deeply saddened’ and called him a ‘much-respected and loved member of our school community’.
Paul Brown’s sister said he was a ‘wonderful brother’ who taught autistic children.
‘We’re coping as well as can be expected at this time, seven members from one family to go at once is just tragic.’ she said.
Victims of the horrific road crash that killed seven people in New Zealand on Sunday have been named and they include a school teacher, his wife, their sons, his sister-in-law and a baby
Auckland Filipino community leader Romy Udanga vowed his community would support the surviving family members and had already begun fund-raising.
He said members of the Wellington Filipino community were on stand-by to help the two survivors.
The Philippines Embassy is believed to be assisting New Zealand police with the investigation and some of the bodies have been sent to Christchurch.
A man who hosted the family just outside Christchurch as they took a break in the mammoth drive to get home rang a New Radio talkback station on Monday, the NZ Herald reported.
The truck driver escaped the smash without serious injury but of the seven people killed in the van one was an infant and one was a teenage boy
The man who gave his name as Bill said he knew Paul Brown since 2015 when they met in church and was happy to open his home to give the family some respite.
Bill said family members took turns at driving from Gore, about 500km away, with an overnight stay in Dunedin, and arrived at 10pm on Saturday.
The family stayed for about four hours, although he offered for them to stay longer and get more rest.
However, Mr Brown said that they would make their way steadily to Picton and grab a few hours sleep waiting for the ferry back to the North Island.
Bill said he and his friend chatted while one of the drivers slept, but the rest of the family snoozed or just rested comfortably.
The collision occurred on State Highway 1 (pictured) between Blenheim and Picton at 7.30am on Sunday
‘This was a vibrant family – my friend was a high school teacher… his wife started an online business and he was really proud of her,’ Bill said.
‘They had four boys and girls… One of the boys married a Taiwanese young lady and it was their baby [who] died.
‘I was really taken with this young woman, she was so nice and it really hits home at my heart that she’s gone and the baby’s gone.
‘Her husband survived… he’s going to wake up and find that he’s now alone.’
Bill thought fatigue may have been a factor in the crash.
‘You spend every spare moment thinking of the what-ifs and the whys,’ he said.
‘My friend was a high school teacher, his students are finding out now that he’s not coming back.’
Five hours after leaving Bill’s house, the van smashed into the truck just outside Picton on State Highway 1 south.
The driver of the refrigerated goods truck suffered only minor injuries and has been released from hospital.
Picton is located on the north coast of the South Island, in the Marlborough region and is a port for ferries that travel to the North Island, which is where the family were heading
Acting Tasman district commander Inspector Paul Borrell described Sunday’s scene as ‘absolute carnage’.
‘In a blink of an eye, seven lives are gone,’ he said on Sunday.
The crash is New Zealand deadliest since eight people were killed in a crash near Taupō in April 2019 and is the worst in the South Island in more than two decades.
Marlborough Area Commander Inspector Simon Feltham said on Sunday support would be offered to first responders to help them cope with the trauma.
‘One of our staff members, it was their third day working out of police college,’ he said. ‘It’s a horrific thing to have to deal with.’
Rick Rawlings said there had been two other serious crashes at that site in recent years as the corner features a deceptive curve in the road.
‘It’s a very narrow part of State Highway 1; It starts off in Picton, and by the time it gets here the vehicles have [sped] up from Picton quite well, and then they have to negotiate a corner which doesn’t really show up all that well – I know – I live right on it,’ he told RNZ.