Diabetes may have caused fatal head-on crash

Emergency services staff had to use cutting equipment to reach the people trapped after yesterday's collision. Photo / Paul Estcourt

A head-on collision which claimed the lives of two women in Waikato yesterday may have been caused by a driver having a diabetes-related illness attack.

The women, aged 67 and 85, died after the crash at 4.15pm on Gordonton Rd near Taupiri.

Their deaths bring the Waikato district road toll to 34 this year, up from 31 at the same time last year and defying the downward trend of the overall nationwide toll.

It is understood the 67-year-old woman was returning home to Taupo in her Suzuki Swift when she had a “medical issue”.

Acting Sergeant Julie Endres of the Waikato highway patrol said the woman’s car crossed the centreline and slammed into a Nissan Maxima going north.

“She is believed to have had diabetes, which may or may not have contributed to the crash,” Ms Endres said.

The 85-year-old woman was in the back seat of the Maxima – believed to be on its way to Auckland – and died almost instantly.

Her son was driving and his wife was in the front passenger seat. The couple were trapped in the car and firefighters who arrived at the scene first administered CPR, then cut them from the vehicle.

Both were taken to Waikato Hospital in a critical condition. Late last night, a spokeswoman said they were still being assessed but were stable.

After the impact, other motorists, including a nurse and a Customs officer, dashed to help. It is understood the nurse gave first aid to the couple, and had she not been there, the toll could have been higher.

A nearby resident told the Herald she heard a loud bang and thought her husband, who was driving his tractor near the road, had been in an accident.

“I was having afternoon tea and I heard a bang and thought it was him,” she said. “I thought, ‘Someone’s collected him’.”

The woman got to an underpass beneath the road near where the accident happened.

She saw steam rising from both cars. Both bonnets were folded into each other, she said.

Residents and motorists who had pulled over started diverting traffic. Police arrived about 10 minutes later.

Last week, Waikato road policing manager Inspector Leo Tooman told the Herald that the increase in the district’s road deaths was disappointing.

“The national road toll is at 173 this year, which is a big drop. It’s just disappointing that Waikato hasn’t followed the rest of the country,” he said.

Alcohol was a factor in 32 per cent of Waikato fatalities, and 10 of those killed were under the age of 21.

Transport Agency figures show poor handling contributed to 32 per cent of fatal crashes, and poor observation to 40 per cent.

A third of all accidents occurred on bends after drivers lost control.

About 1.15am on Saturday, a 28-year-old man died after his car crossed the centreline and collided with a van in Palmerston North.

He was Joshua Stephenson, from Palmerston North.

And a man injured in a crash in Auckland on Wednesday died in hospital on Saturday.

Police said his death, after a crash on Mt Eden Rd, would not be included in the weekend road toll.

By Anna Leask and Nikki Preston | Email Anna