Tongan identified as one of five victims killed in Waikato highway crash

A Tongan man has been identified as one of the five victims killed in two-vehicle crash on State Highway 3, north of Te Awamutu, near Hamilton, New Zealand.

Police confirmed the three occupants of one vehicle and two occupants of the other vehicle all died at the scene.

Various posts shared on Facebook this morning identified the Tongan victim by the name Suliasi Lefai.

Here is a screenshot of a post on Facebook which identified one of the victims as Tongan.

“Fly high Suliasi”, another post read.

The posters have been contacted for further comment.

Waikato road policing manager Inspector Jeff Penno said the crash was a “tragic accident”.

One of the cars had crossed the centre line, resulting in a head-on collision, Penno said.

“We understand the time it happened, where it happened , how it happened – but we don’t know why it happened”.

“At this stage, we don’t know why it occurred. We know one vehicle crossed the centre line and collided with the other. We know exactly where that happened, and it was clearly across the centre line, but we don’t know why,” Inspector Penno said.   

Emergency services were called to the crash on State Highway 3 in Ōhaupō, between Te Awamutu and Hamilton, at 4.44pm yesterday.

Here is another screenshot of a post on Facebook which identified one of the victims as Tongan

“To lose five lives in these circumstances is heartbreaking, and our thoughts go out to all the families affected.”

And police are “well down the path” towards formally identifying the victims, Penno added.

“Out of respect for the families, who are starting a long and painful journey, I don’t wish to comment any further on that.

“But all family members have been advised.”

He echoed comments from Waipā Mayor Susan O’Regan this morning.

Waipā mayor Susan O’Regan said the road isn’t particularly dangerous – but it is busy.

She said it’s not a particularly dangerous stretch of road – but it is busy.

“It’s not a high-risk road in the Waikato,” Penno said.

“We have a number of high-risk roads… This piece of road is not one of those roads.”

Police will be investigating whether drugs or alcohol played a role: “Impairment is always something we look at.”

Asked about the cars themselves, Penno said “they were not five star [safety rated] vehicles”.

Early indications are that “excess speed was not a factor”, he continued, adding “the physical scene” meant police officers couldn’t determine if all occupants of the vehicles were wearing seat belts – though “some certainly were”.

The area is a 100km/h zone. Penno said “the question would be whether the speed limit is appropriate for that stretch of road”.

The crash occurred as the country gears up for a long weekend, celebrating the King’s Birthday holiday.

Penno urged drivers to be careful and warned that anyone breaking the rules this long weekend should expect to be caught.

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