Horror Picton crash: December report recommended lower speed limit

Source: 1News

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency received an assessment recommending a speed limit reduction on a stretch of road at the top of the South Island before a horror crash claimed the lives of seven people.

Scene of crash near Picton that claimed seven lives.

Paul James Muir Brown, 59, Diseree Lagud Brown, 47, Mark John Lagud, 15, Divina Lagud Dolar, 56, Flordeliza Lagud Dolar, 19, Li-Hsuan (Amber) Chen, 36, and Mika Ella Chen Clariman, 6 months, were killed when the van they were travelling in crossed the centre line and collided with a Big Chill truck in Koromiko, south of Picton last month.

Two other people in the van survived what was the worst smash on South Island roads in two decades.

The family group was travelling back to Pukehoke from Otago, where they had been attending a funeral.

Now, documents released to 1News under the Official Information Act reveal the transport agency was already looking at speed limits on the road before the crash.

A technical engineering assessment from December had a number of warnings about the potential for head-on and 'lost control' crashes.

READ MORE: Median barrier would've prevented Picton crash - campaigner

The stretch of road where the crash occurred has a posted speed limit of 100km/h, but the report recommended it be reduced to 80km/h “which is considered appropriate for the undivided road environment and straight/ curved alignment”.

It was one of a number of stretches of State Highway 1 in the region where “audio tactile pavement centre lines” were recommended to “reduce head-on crash risk”.

Tributes left at the scene of the horror crash between Picton and Blenheim

“The speed limit of 80km/h is considered appropriate given that the historical crashes show that there has been a high risk of head-on and lost control crashes due to the curved alignment and high speed environment,” the report noted.

Mark Owen, top of the south/ Wellington regional manager for Waka Kotahi said the technical assessment was the first step in the speed review process, and consultation also must take place.

"Waka Kotahi is continuing to assist the police serious crash unit, which is leading the investigation into this crash," he said.

"We are also carrying out our own thorough review of the crash site, with a focus on any safety improvements which can be made at the site, which may include changes to speed limits and other safety improvements. It’s important that we allow this work to be completed to have a full and accurate understanding of all of the factors which may have contributed to this crash."

He said since 2012 and before this crash, there had been five deaths and 21 serious injuries recorded on the 26km corridor of State Highway 1 between Picton and Blenheim.

"Our deepest sympathies remain with the family and friends of those killed and injured in this crash. It was a tragic and devastating incident, and we acknowledge its impact will be long-lasting on those affected."

'Killing zone'

Rick Rawlings, who lives near the crash site, said the speed must be lowered and rumble strips installed.

There had been "continuous accidents" in the 21 years he'd lived there with wife Trish.

"It's proved itself to be totally, it's a killing zone, it's got to be fixed," he told 1News. "That's it. Now."

Trish Rawlings said it was "horrendous" knowing seven people had died near their home. She agreed with lowering the speed limit, but said some residents might object to the sound of rumble strips. The road should be a major priority for Waka Kotahi, she said.