At approximately 1:50 pm on Tuesday, our Higgins team in the Rotorua area suffered a devastating tragedy, losing three friends and colleagues when their work area was struck by a third-party truck while completing regular, programmed road maintenance activities along State Highway 2 near Whakatane where the maximum speed limit is 100 km/hr.
The team on the day consisted of six workers (three employees, a labour hire employee and two subcontractors). The task they were completing involved using a water truck and hyrdovac to clear culverts. This was a relatively simple job and a task they had already completed on several other culverts in the area that day using established traffic management plans.
As they were finishing up the task and confirming the drain was clear, Haki Hiha, David Eparaima and Soul Raroa were standing off the roadway ahead of where their traffic calming signage and Higgins crew cab truck (>2 tonne) were placed.
At this time, it is understood that a large (>6 tonne) third party truck struck the outside corner of the stationary Higgins truck which caused it to rotate 180 degrees and land upside down in the ditch. The third-party truck then continued through the work area, appearing to strike the three workers and making final impact with our subcontractor's (>5 tonne) water truck pushing it forward into the vacuum truck.
Important reminder for all of us (pre-investigation)
While it is challenging to draw meaningful conclusions pre-investigation, this is a sober reminder for all of us:
- Do you work in live road corridors where you or your people are vulnerable to live traffic? If you do, have you fully considered all factors (e.g. road design/conditions, weather/seasonal conditions, traffic behavior, etc)?
- If you are a driver, are you driving defensively and maintaining constant awareness of the driving conditions or activities along the road that might change?
- And finally. If you don't already. Please be extra careful around road workers.