Two Lower Hutt men were killed in a head-on crash on Centennial Highway on Saturday, 17th April, bringing further calls for improvements to the road leading north from Wellington. Michael David Maurice Dearsley, 64, driving south in a Hyundai and a 50 year old Darryl David Zohs, also from Lower Hutt. Driving north in a Nissan station wagon, died in the 3.15pm collision. Mr Dearsley whose car crossed the centerline, died at the scene, while Mr Zohs died shortly after being admitted to hospital. It took emergency services three and a half hours to clear the site. Police Senior Sergeant Andrea Jopling said post-mortems on the men would be carried out as part of an investigation.
The crash occurred the day after transit announced a 340 % increase, to $880 million, in the projected cost of the Transmission Gully route, a four lane highway through the hills east of the Coast which would include a barrier down the centerline. Ms Jopling said that had a barrier divided traffic on Saturday, Mr Dearsley's car may have side-swiped another vehicle or the barrier , but would not have hit the other car head on. Sergeant Ron Walker, who attended Saturday's accident, said the road needed something done about it, "but I can't see what. Most of the accidents we've attended there lately have involved a car crossing the center line." Paekakariki Volunteer Fire Brigade deputy chief Michael Jackson said motorists seemed resigned to the delays. He had reports from residents on Paekakariki Hill Road that diverted traffic had also choked that road. "It was stopped dead. " Yesterday fire chief Ash Richardson, a long-time vocal proponent for road improvement along the stretch, said he had almost given up. " I never thought Transmission Gully was going to ahead. The Western Corridor is useless, as soon as there is an emergency everything grinds to a halt."
He remembers people talking about an alternative route since his family moved to the area in 1960. " How long have we been talking about the problem ? The whole coastal route is going to come to a complete standstill." He estimated that over the last six months the road in and out of Wellington had been closed for an average of five hours a month due to emergencies. He said that did not include slow rush hour traffic, just those times when, through flooding or crashes, the road became impassable. "All we need is a big tide and a high wind and we're in trouble." He had given up "pulling my hair out" as he could not see anything was going to be done. "We just go and (clean up the mess), and come back to the station."
2004 The Hutt News