Man dies in crash involving Samoan seasonal workers

A person has died, and 10 others are injured after a truck careened into a van-load of Samoan seasonal workers on the Napier-Taupo highway on Monday.

The victim and injured people were all in the van, while the driver of the truck is understood to have not been injured.

New Zealand Police have confirmed that ten were Samoan nationals, and one was a New Zealander. The Police added that they want to inform the families first before they confirm the identity of the deceased.

 Police have not yet confirmed whether the deceased was Samoan. 

The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour has been approached for a comment. 

On Monday afternoon, Chief Executive Officer Pulotu Lyndon Chu Ling said his New Zealand based division was still working to confirm the details of the incident.

The Samoan High Commission and the Police are working together to notify the families of the people involved in the crash, a police spokesperson confirmed. 

First responders the St John Ambulance report five people were taken to Hawke’s Bay Hospital, with one in a critical condition taken by helicopter. Another in critical condition was airlifted to Gisborne Hospital, and another to Palmerston North.

Two more injured were taken to Taupo Hospital by ambulance. 

They first were notified of the crash just before 10am on Monday, and sent three helicopters, four ambulances and a manager in a rapid response vehicle, with a further three helicopters on standby.

The Hawkes Bay Today reports that the three vans of workers were travelling north and had pulled over to turn into a highway café, the Tarawera Café.

The truck, also travelling north, couldn’t slow down or move to avoid them, Hawke’s bay Police senior constable Tim Rowe said.

He said the crash was likely caused by a “momentary lapse in concentration,” but the situation is being investigated fully. 

Both vehicles ended up off the road at the bottom of the bank beside it.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand report three fire trucks attended the crash.

With no detour available, the entire section of State Highway 5 had been closed off and motorists asked to avoid the area, but it was reopened late on Monday afternoon.

In August, Samoan seasonal worker Selesele Vaetasi Mati Asiata died in a crash on State Highway 2 in the Bay of Plenty, just five days before his flight home to Samoa. He was 36.

A man was charged with careless driving in the incident.

And in September, two seasonal workers Sua Ken Lafo and Asoone Ropeti, both aged 33, died in a head-on collision in Perth.

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