A friend of the seven people killed in a horrific crash near Picton said he spent the night with them in Christchurch before making the fateful journey home.
“You spend every free moment thinking about assumptions and whys,” said Bill, who contacted Newstalk ZB this morning.
He said three generations of the Auckland family died in the crash and revealed what they did when they came to stay with him on Saturday night.
“They spent some of their last hours on earth with me on Saturday night, Sunday morning,” Bill told NewstalkZB Canterbury Mornings host John MacDonald.
“It was a dynamic family – my friend was a high school teacher…his wife started an online business and he was really proud of her.
“They had four boys and girls… One of the boys had married a Taiwanese girl and it was their baby who died.
“I was really taken by this young woman, she was so nice and it really touches me that she is gone and the baby is gone.
“Her husband survived…he will wake up to find he is now alone.”
The family were traveling home to the North Island after attending a loved one’s funeral in Dunedin when the Toyota Hiace van they were traveling in collided head-on with a refrigerated lorry on Sunday.
The aftermath of the accident. Photo/George Heard
There were nine people in the van and tragically seven of them, including a baby, were killed ‘in the blink of an eye’ after their van appeared to cross the center line of State Highway 1 south of Picton around 7:30 a.m.
The cause of the accident is still under investigation.
Bill said the family stayed with him in Rolleston, outside Christchurch, before heading north to catch the ferry from Picton to Wellington.
They had come from Gore and had taken turns driving.
Bill said his friend told him he was really proud of his sons for their safe driving efforts.
He said the family was based in Pukekohe but had family in the Philippines and Taiwan who were said to be in shock over the accident.
“We met in 2015 and he and I attended the same church and that’s how I met him,” Bill said.
The family arrived a little before 10 p.m.
“They came in, they had eaten so I made coffee and tea,” Bill said.
“My friend and I just chatted, we hadn’t seen each other in four years, and the rest of the family just had fun.
“Some slept – the guy driving when they left slept for a few hours.
“One of the guys was playing a computer game and didn’t bother to sleep, but everyone else except my friend got a little dozed.
“They were just comfy, they had pillows and blankets.
“I had suggested why not stay and sleep more and my friend said no we’ll be fine, we’ll just head slowly to Picton and sleep maybe a few hours when we get there while we wait for the ferry.
“So they left and I went to bed and didn’t think about it anymore.
“They stayed at my house for over four hours, so they had a good break.”
They left his house around 2:30 a.m.
But he didn’t believe they were in a hurry. They wanted to take their time and rest before taking the ferry, he said.
Bill planned to message his mate on Sunday to see how the trip went.
At 5 p.m. he was driving and heard the news of the accident.
“At the first opportunity I texted how the trip was going – but there was no response,” he said.
“At 6 p.m., I started to inquire.”
He said his friend’s wife’s sister was also with the group.
“When you hear about a group of people who had an unhappy ending, it’s just chilling – I wish people knew this was a real family with hopes and dreams,” he said. he declares.
Bill didn’t know who was driving when the van crashed.
“I can only imagine that there was a time when fatigue set in…certainly there was no alcohol involved.
He said his friend had another daughter with his first wife.
“She is now without her father,” he lamented.
“My friend was a high school teacher, his students now find out he’s not coming back…”
Bill said he and his mate talked about “everything” while he was at Rolleston.
“He kind of joked that I saved him over $300 on a motel when he was at my house, he thought about it and decided not to.”
He is haunted by the dead, who he says remind him “how fragile life is”.
“I walk around a bit and remember every moment, pretty much,” he said.
“I can still feel his hand in mine when we shook hands when he left…the chair he was sitting in, I touched it several times this morning.
“I really wanted to tell people that they were real people, it’s going to be a huge shock…”