Road 'a killer of our people' say guardians of cemetery smashed by a truck

Lindsay Poutama says the section of State Highway 1 where a truck crashed into a cemetery on Sunday has long been a problem.

MURRAY WILSON/STUFF Lindsay Poutama says the section of State Highway 1 where a truck crashed into a cemetery on Sunday has long been a problem.

A section of State Highway 1 has been labelled as a killer by a kaumatua following a serious crash this weekend.

Truck driver David McNeill was heading south on SH1 through Manakau, south of Levin, when a car crossed the centre-line about 2pm on Sunday.

He swerved to avoid the oncoming vehicle, jack-knifed, then landed in Te Rau O Te Aroha urupa down a bank just off the road, Hilton Haulage general manager Alle McGrath has said on the company's Facebook page.

McNeill was not seriously injured, but there was a fatality in another vehicle following a suspected medical event, she said.

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A truck landed in a cemetery in the Te Rau O Te Aroha urupa at Manakau on Sunday.

SUPPLIED A truck landed in a cemetery in the Te Rau O Te Aroha urupa at Manakau on Sunday.

It's not the first time drivers have skidded off the road into Te Rau O Te Aroha, local kaumatua Lindsay Poutama said on Monday - and it won't be the last.

The road was known as a killer, he said.

"I've made a number of proposals to transport [officials] just to reduce the speeds.

"We basically see SH1 as a taniwha - a killer of our people, a consumer of cars. We did our karakia last night to try to appease the taniwha.

"We gathered all the families so they could be present for the karakia and restore the mauri (life force)."

Several grave sites were damaged by the crashing truck.

Supplied

Several grave sites were damaged by the crashing truck.

Whanau were gathering at their urupa to mourn, remember and restore the mauri of the site after the truck crashed through its fences.

A family who celebrated Christmas the day of the crash were able to visit their tipuna before the destruction, but not everyone was so lucky.

The truck was removed from the urupa on Sunday night, but signs of the wreck remained on Monday.

Rusty Petawiti, 57, had been cleaning up her daughter's and mokopunas' graves. A power pole from the bank crashed down with the truck, smashing several angels. 

In a previous incident a cow and car had landed on their graves, splattering innards across her whanau's resting places. The road was dangerous and needed to be fixed, she said. 

"Our terror is this road.

We really need to slow it down."

Having their tipuna's graves disturbed was difficult so close the Christmas, Poutama said.

At least six graves were damaged in the crash, with most belonging to a single whanau.

"The families are aware of what's happened and are feeling very raw. One of the headstones was ripped right off. The bases of the others have been munted."

Hapu took pride in the urupa - kept it tidy and welcoming for whanau, Poutama said, but it's too soon to be thinking about fixing headstones yet.

"In a moment like that you're only thinking emotionally.

We did what we had to to get though."

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