NEW ZEALAND DISASTERS AND TRAGEDIES
SATURDAY 26 JULY 1980
FROM SOUTHLAND TIMES - STUFF 30 JULY 2010.
On July 26, 1980, shortly after midnight, a 1967 Wolseley packed with 10 young people failed to take a right-hand bend from the Tiwai Point causeway on to the wharf.
It crashed through a wooden barrier and plunged into 12m of water and an outgoing tide. All of the occupants managed to get out of the car but only three survived. Five bodies were never found.
Among the dead were four crew members of the Ngakuta, a ship berthed at the wharf and the destination for the car load of young people who had met up at a hotel in Bluff.
The reminder of the passengers were from Invercargill and Bluff, none of them were aged over 27, several had young families, three were women and one was pregnant.
Survivor Glenys Smith, a 21-year-old school teacher, told The Southland Times shortly after the crash that she didn't know how she had survived. "I thought I was going to die. I can remember thinking, `I'm going to have to let myself go'. But I didn't know how to die." She said she was with a group of five who were out on Friday night in John Beaumont's car. At Bluff they saw the four members of the Ngakuta and Bluff seaman Scott Thorpe and someone in the group recognised one of them. The men jumped in the car and they headed for the ship. "On the way John was driving fast, but he was in control of the car," Miss Smith said.
Invercargill coroner GS Noble later said the crash was an "appalling tragedy". A combination of an overcrowded vehicle, a certain amount of liquor taken by the driver and some unfamiliarity, or perhaps complete unfamiliarity, with the Tiwai wharf and causeway contributed to the crash, he said. Survivor Scott Thorpe told the coroner Mr Beaumont cried out, "My God, what have I done?" as the car flew over the edge.
The survivors were: Glenys Kaye Smith, 21, of Invercargill; Scott Thorpe, 19, of Bluff; Steven Macaulay, 21, of Invercargill.Those who died were:
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