Friends of five teenagers killed when an overloaded car crashed into a power pole, snapping the vehicle in half, may be planning a car event with burnouts in their honour.
The crash, one of the worst in recent history, happened shortly before 7.30pm on Saturday at the intersection of Seadown and Meadows roads in Washdyke, near Timaru.
One of the victims was found dead in the boot. The 19-year-old driver, who was on a restricted licence, was the only survivor.
The victims were Javarney Drummond, 15, Niko Hill, Andrew Goodger, Jack Wallace and Joseph McCarthy. The boys were all aged 15 or 16.
Police were yet to speak to the driver, Aoraki area commander Inspector Dave Gaskin said on Monday.
They did not know where the group were going or what they had been doing in the hours leading up to the crash, he said.
Asked whether charges were likely and when they might be laid, Gaskin said it was “absolutely far too early to even speculate on that”.
The driver remained in a serious but stable condition in Timaru Hospital, and it was not known when he might be well enough to be released.
Gaskin said he did not know whether the driver was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash.
Asked about reports of concerning driving in the area on Sunday, he said police were aware of one incident in a paddock near the crash site.
“I understand there was a report on late Saturday afternoon of someone doing burnouts in a paddock and someone was standing up through a sunroof. But that was not this vehicle concerned in this crash.”
Sergeant Geoff McCrostie said he had heard of a car event being organised in honour of the five boys who died, and questioned whether the families of the victims had been consulted.
“I haven’t seen anything about it, but someone in the office read out a post on Facebook this morning [Monday],” he said.
“I wondered if that was what the family would be wanting? Is it a good idea?”
He said there had been suggestions of burnouts at the event, with seatbelts on.
“It seemed to be a bit of a stupid idea to me.”
The victims, all aged 15 and 16, were not “car people” as they were too young to have licences, he said.
Friends and family of those killed were back at the scene on Monday morning to pay their respects.
Dani Black, who visited the site with her father on Monday, said she knew all the boys who were killed.
“It wasn’t their time and none of them deserved it.”
She said she hoped none of her friends had suffered.
South Canterbury secondary schools were supporting students and offering counselling to those affected by the deaths.
Mountainview High School principal Kenny Diamond said: “Sadly, several of our students and ex-students were involved in the tragic car accident on Saturday evening.
“We are devastated by the news of this tragedy with staff and students struggling to come to terms with the terrible loss of these young men.”
Diamond said the school was receiving support from the Ministry of Education and South Canterbury agencies to ensure students and staff had the support needed.
Roncalli College principal Chris Comeau confirmed one of the teenagers was a recent Roncalli student.
“We are devastated by the news of this tragedy and our staff and students are struggling to come to terms with the terrible loss of these young people.”
The principals for both Roncalli and Mountainview schools said their priority was supporting the families and friends of those affected.
Timaru Girls’ High School principal Deb Hales said the tragedy had been discussed at the school on Monday morning.
“We recognise this will impact the wider community and there will be girls here affected for many different reasons.
“We have talked to our girls in our different year groups and set up space where they can go for time out and our counsellor is available all day.”
Opihi College acting principal Tony Robson said other schools were more deeply affected by the tragedy, but they were offering counselling to students when needed as well as advice and guidance.
“We’re following the advice from the Ministry of Education. The whole school is shocked and saddened and extends our sympathy.”
Geraldine High School posted a message to its community on Sunday, extending its “heartfelt condolences to all those affected by Saturday night’s car accident”.
On Sunday afternoon, Aoraki Alternative Education manager Rob Emerson said a trauma team was on hand at Mountainview High School to offer support and counselling to those affected.
Both Javarney and Niko were alternative education success stories, he said. While Javarney had a quiet personality, Niko was larger than life and “in your face”.
The principal of Timaru Boys’ High School said they would release a statement later on Monday.
Police suspect speed and alcohol were factors in the crash. Some of the teenagers killed were not wearing seatbelts.
The driver suffered serious injuries and was taken to Timaru Hospital. He posted an apology to social media from his hospital bed on Sunday afternoon.
Steven Drummond said his son Jarvarney was a “social butterfly”, but was not known to be involved in joyriding, Drummond said. None of his son’s friends had cars, but he had attended primary school with the driver.
The other four teens who died visited the Drummond house often.
“It’s a huge loss for five families … it’s not something I would wish upon anybody.”
Niko Hill’s father said he received a phone call on Saturday night informing him his son had been killed.
“Oh my heart is broken, my one and only,” he wrote on social media.
Goodger’s father declined to comment on Sunday evening.
The driver posted a photograph with a message from his hospital bed on Sunday, apologising for his “stupid mistakes”.
“Hello everyone just wanted to say I’m not dead I am very very lucky to still be alive and I can’t believe what has happened and I am so so so sorry to the families that I have put in pain coz of stupid mistakes that I made that has costed 5 lives.”
Support is ‘out there’
Caroline Perry, spokesperson for Brake Aotearoa New Zealand, a national road safety charity, said there was no doubt the crash would have a “devastating impact” on the community.
“To lose so many young lives at once is just tragic,” Perry said.
“It’s important for people to know if people need support, there is support out there.”
Perry said it was important for parents to keep the lines of communication open with young people.
“We often talk to our little kids about road safety, but we need to be talking about being drivers and passengers as our kids get older. We need to talk about wearing seatbelts, ensuring we’re keeping to the speed limit, and speaking up to mates when they’re not doing the right thing.”
Perry said progress had been made, pointing to the graduated driver licensing system and zero-alcohol limit for young people, but “we’re still seeing too many young people killed”.
“There’s a lot of things we need to do to bring death and injury down on our roads … there are engineering fixes, such as side and median barriers, as well as driver’s licencing systems and improving drivers education throughout school.”