The grief-stricken family of seven people who died in a horrific car crash on New Zealand’s South Island on Sunday are paying tribute to their loved ones who were taken from them.
The family were driving north on State Highway 1 towards Picton in the island’s northeast at about 7.30am on Sunday when their van collided with a truck.
The crash claimed the lives of married couple Paul and Diseree Brown, 61 and 48, and their youngest son Mark, 14, as well as Diseree’s sister Divine Dolar, 56, and Divine’s daughter Flordeliza Dolar, 19.
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The collision, which left the van completely destroyed, was the deadliest crash on New Zealand roads since April 2019 when eight people died in a head-on crash near Taupo.
Now, heartbroken family members have gathered awaiting news about one of the crash’s two survivors, Luie Lagud, 16, who was placed in a coma after suffering significant injuries to his spine and head.
Speaking to the New Zealand Herald21-year-old David Lagud said he was still in complete shock after hearing the news about his family.
The nine family members were reportedly on a road trip from Auckland to Dunedin to farewell Paul’s aunt, who had recently passed away. The funeral was held last week.
The family left Dunedin on Saturday afternoon and stayed overnight with a friend in Christchurch.
From there, they continued their journey home, starting at 2.30am on Sunday in order to make their ferry across to the north island.
David told the New Zealand Herald he hadn’t gone on the trip because he had to work at the local Pak ‘n Save supermarket in Pukekohe and also because he suffered from motion sickness.
He last heard from his brother Pedro’s partner on Saturday night, asking him to feed their bird.
He also missed a call from his stepfather, Paul, on Saturday night who later texted David to ask him to clean their house prior to their return on Sunday night.
That was the last time David spoke to his family before the crash.
“It’s just shocking, to happen that fast,” David told the outlet.
“In a blink of an eye, it’s all gone.”
David said he spoke to Pedro after the crash, who was being supported by his two sisters while he and Luie were in Wellington Hospital.
Pedro had suffered minor injuries from the crash.
Pedro told David the family were taking turns driving along the journey while others remained.
After driving for four hours, Pedro swapped with Paul, who would drive the rest of the way to the ferry.
Asleep at the time of the crash, it’s believed Pedro woke up to a scene of carnage and tragedy.
“He saw my dad’s body on the road and then my brother Luie, he was awake and then he collapsed,” David said.
“Then the next minute, the helicopter was there, taking my little brother to the hospital.”
While an investigation into the circumstances of the crash is ongoing, early reports suggested the van had crossed the road’s center line before hitting the truck.
David said Pedro was heartbroken after hearing his partner and child had died.
“He was devastated, he was crying a lot,” David said.
“Both of his loves are gone.”