Honeymooners crash at notorious spot
Fri, 21 Sep 2012 6:19p.m.
By Adam Hollingworth
The New Zealand Transport Agency says despite extensive improvements made last year, there have been two fatal accidents at a notorious blackspot near Waitomo.
The latest accident at the location involved a honeymooning American couple, Kallan Stithem and Kirsten Steinke, who were married in the US last week.
Mr Stithem died in the incident and his wife remains in a critical condition at Waikato Hospital.
Police fear that - like many tourists - he simply looked the wrong way at the junction as he turned off the road from Waitomo Caves into the main highway.
“They’ve entered State Highway number three and been T-boned by a north-bound concrete truck [and] as a result of that crash the car was catapulted onto the incorrect side of the road at State Highway 3,” says Waikato road policing manager Leo Tooman.
Locals have been complaining about the junction for years.
“Every day I go back from work you sort of take your life in your hands, you know, I put my foot down and just go for it and hope you get out,” says Ross O’Halloran.
Police say Mr Stithem looked the wrong way at the intersection.
“We’ve had a young couple who’ve overtaken the vehicle which has stopped at the stop sign and my concern is that they’ve just reverted back to the natural instinct which occurs,” says Mr Tooman. “Maybe having been in the country just a couple of days the adjustment had not been made.”
The Transport Agency says there were eight crashes in five years at the junction before lighting, visibility and slip roads were improved last December.
Since then there have been two deaths and the agency is looking at widening the road further, and installing a turning bay this summer.
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25/09/2012 8:42:51 a.m.
Ashley E. Kingsley wrote:
I am so saddened by the news of Kallan's passing and Kirsten's current status, fighting for life. We are sending prayers from Denver, Colorado.
To the families and friends, and all involved, I am so very, very sorry. I am part Kiwi, and I have been on this road. This tragedy has touched many and we are all pulling for Kirsten.
Love and Light....
24/09/2012 2:48:24 p.m.
For all the effort to attract tourism to NZ, this horrific story (every bride's worst nightmare) is making news across the entire US.
Americans will avoid places with infrastructure that lacks basic safety. Perhaps you say "good riddance" but please don't whine about the loss of tourism dollars.
24/09/2012 7:57:12 a.m.
Every intersection is potential danger.
23/09/2012 7:43:57 p.m.
Jeremy Corner wrote:
Don't miss judge me I really feel for these people, family and friends but it seems most are blameing the intersection, I drive through this intersection 5 days a week to get to waitomo and have never had a close call, the recent work that has been done has made it safer and easier to see, if you obey the road rules you'll be fine. Both deaths that have happened at this site are due to driver error, sure signs saying dangerous intersection would help. However more needs to be reported on the lack of training on drivers from overseas and more so for those who drive on the oppisite side of the road, there is almost a weekly crash on this road to waitomo due to drivers either on the wrong side of the road or lack of concentration/tiredness, but luckly none have yet been fatal. No matter what changes get made to this intersection if someone pulls out in front of a truck as both fatals have, it will be luck that saves them. This intersection already has large merging lanes, turning lanes and stop signs.
I think the blame lays with the govt. to make sure travellers have more training on our roads, other than a keep left sticker on the dash/windscreen of their rentals, they are one of our largest reason we kiwi's have jobs and money coming into this country. To the families I hope you remember Kallen by his smiles, happiness and good thing he's done and Kirsten recovers fast from the injuries and can return and remember the good times you both had together.
21/09/2012 8:27:52 p.m.
My heart goes out to Kirsten and I will keep her in my prayers such a tragedy for her to loose her husband Kallan. My prayers are with the families of both of them.
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