The scene of the triple fatal crash at Huntly. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The scene of the triple fatal crash at Huntly. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Top QLD violinist and family die in horror NZ crash

UPDATE: A victim of a horrific crash at Huntly, in New Zealand, was a violinist with Queensland Symphony Orchestra, the Brisbane Times reports.

Stephen Phillips, 54, and his two stepsons, 12 and 14 years old, died in yesterday's horror road crash in Huntly.

They were among a family who had just arrived in the country from Australia.

The family are believed to have been travelling in a rental car when they crashed.

The boys' mother Belinda Williams and her daughter, Tessa, were the survivors of the crash, according to the Times.

The family had left their home on Monday morning to spend two weeks visiting Williams' family in New Zealand.

Phillips was First Violinist with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra while Williams played viola for the orchestra as a casual guest musician, neighbour Billy Azad said.

"Stephen was a good gentleman, he was good at repairing pianos, a handyman kind of guy," he told the Times.

"Belinda was a great lady, she would drop other kids on the street to the bus stop."

Phillips had been with the orchestra since 1987 and Williams since 2002, the orchestra chairman Greg Wanchap told the Times.

Stephen Phillips (source Brisbane Symphony Orchestra)
Stephen Phillips (source Brisbane Symphony Orchestra)

EARLIER: THREE people killed in a horror road crash in Huntly were among a family who had just arrived in the country from Australia.

The family are believed to have been travelling in a rental car when they crashed, killing a 12-year-old boy, a 14-year-old boy and a 54-year-old man.

The Herald reported this morning that the boot of the rental car contained baggage with flight tags that indicated they had arrived from Australia. A witness said the tags said they had arrived from Brisbane that day.

The woman who survived is a Kiwi, reported Fairfax.

Earlier police said that the woman and a young girl were recovering in hospital.

Witnesses to a crash that claimed the lives of a man and two young boys desperately prised a mangled car door open with a crowbar to reach a distressed young girl.

One of the victims was next to the 9-year-old girl, who was sitting behind her critically injured mother.

The witnesses covered the bodies with a dog blanket so the girl couldn't see them while they tried to calmed her.

An ambulance driver was heard telling the girl, "It's okay, you can hold Mummy's hand in a little while".

This morning the woman was in a serious condition in the high dependency unit at Waikato Hospital. Her daughter was in a stable condition in a ward.

Today a top Waikato cop reissued a plea to motorists to drive safely on the region's roads.

Strategic traffic manager Freda Grace said it meant driving within the speed limits and to the conditions.

"Drivers must be fit for the road, which means being well-rested and focused.

"Too often, a moment of fatigue or distraction has tragic consequences," she said.

She said while the investigation into the cause of the crash continued the thoughts of the police were with the family and friends of all those involved.

Lynne Bliek was just metres from the crash on State Highway 1 in Huntly in the Essex Arms pub yesterday afternoon when a silver Sedan crossed the centreline and collided with a Mark Grey Carriers truck.

"The whole building shook."

The Te Kauwhata woman ran to the scene where the truck driver, who was uninjured, was already out of his truck and calling emergency services.

She raced to the car, which had spun around, and she and other witnesses used a crowbar to prise open the front passenger door where a badly injured woman in her late 20s was sitting.

She had severe facial injuries and was in shock, Bliek said.

Bliek and a motorist who had been travelling directly behind the car helped unlock the little girl's door.

"[The girl] was quite upset. She was in the back and she was worried her mum was going to die. Her brother - I presume it was her brother - was half lying on her."

Another boy was sitting next to him in the backseat. Bliek thought they looked about 11 and 13 years old. The driver, believed to be the father, was also dead.

A Huntly doctor and her assistant arrived to perform first aid and helped the girl to their car where they tried to calm her down.

The woman's airbag had deployed, which Bliek thought may have minimised injuries to her legs.

She was flown to Waikato Hospital, with the girl. The boot of the car was full with luggage and Bliek said the tags indicated they had returned from a holiday in Australia that day.

The crash closed a section of the highway for several hours yesterday. The bodies remained in the wreckage last night while a kaumatua performed a blessing at the site. The bodies were removed about 8pm and the road reopened.

Other nearby workers told the Herald they were surprised they did not hear the crash despite their shops backing onto the scene. Charlie Habershon was working at a takeaway shop and ran out the back door to see what had happened when her sister heard sirens.

Habershon saw the woman being cut from the vehicle about five minutes later.

Mark Grey, of Mark Grey Carriers, went to the police station with the driver yesterday afternoon.

"We're not doing too well. I'm supporting the driver and we're giving the police as much information as we can."

Huntly Volunteer Fire Brigade chief fire officer Craig Bush attended the crash and said it had been a "pretty rough day".

"We were also called to assist ambulance at a cardiac arrest and the person died so that was four people dead in our little town in an hour and a half."

Counselling would be offered to firefighters.

"We're able to offer all the support in the world for anyone who needs it."

Waikato District mayor Allan Sanson said it was not yet known if the family were from Huntly.

"But if they are local people, it will impact even more in the community. It is a hard one. My heart goes out to the family - it really, really does.

"It happens and people don't get to have their goodbyes - they don't get to have that last cuddle, they don't get to have that last kiss. It's just that sudden gone - like somebody turning a light switch off."

The three deaths took this year's official road toll to 232 - 10 more than the same time last year.

- NZ Herald



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