Four killed in Ballina crash
The Pacific Highway is closed south of Byron Bay early Wednesday morning after four people died when their Hyundai sedan crashed into a tree. Nine NewsPT0M18S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-3eshd 620 349 September 3, 2014
Police are investigating whether speed and alcohol were factors in a crash that killed four young friends believed to have been travelling to buy a cigarette lighter on the New South Wales north coast.
Jessica Camidge, 22, Richard Wells, 19, William Manton, 20, and Samantha Enright, 17, were killed when their Hyundai sedan slammed into a tree and almost split in two, after the driver tried to overtake a truck on the Pacific Highway about 1.20am on Wednesday.
The friends were driving from Ewingsdale, near Byron Bay, to Ballina when the Hyundai left the road at Newrybar, just north of Ballina.
The scene of the fatal crash at Ballina. Photo: Matthew Howard/Ten News, via Twitter
Ms Camidge was driving the 40 kilometres between the two coastal towns.
Police have confirmed Mr Wells, from West Ballina, was in the front passenger's seat, while Mr Manton, from Ballina, and Ms Enright, from Skennars Head, were in the rear passengers' seats.
The noise of the crash woke residents.
"We were woken by a loud bang around 2am, then surrounded by helicopters for the next few hours," Newrybar resident Peter Siefken said.
Inspector Nicole Bruce said the friends would have died almost instantly.
She said the driver attempted to pass a B-double truck over double lines and then swerved to miss another oncoming truck.
Ballina crash victim William "Bill" Manton. Photo: Facebook
"They missed the truck but lost control and heavily impacted with a tree almost splitting the car in half," she said.
"It was fairly horrific."
Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn said the police were investigating whether whether speed and alcohol were factors.
Ballina crash victim Jessica "'Jesse" Camidge. Photo: Facebook
"Words cannot describe what happened in the early hours of the morning, it is just terrible," she said. "These young people had so much ahead of them, this should not be happening.
"For every parent that's out there today it is an important time to talk to your children about drink driving, about speeding on the road and make sure they understand that safety message."
All families have been notified of the deaths.
Ballina crash victim Richard Wells. Photo: Facebook
Friends and family have taken to Facebook to pay tribute to the young friends.
"Jesse this cant be true i [sic] was only with you the other week for your birthday you were way too young to go," one friend wrote.
A relative of Mr Manton's wrote: "Taken to [sic] young little cuz thoughts are always with you xxx and to the families of the other thee that have passed."
The fatal smash occurred along an 80km/h section of road at Newrybar, which is undergoing a long-awaited upgrade.
The Tintenbar to Ewingsdale upgrade, which will replace the deadly single-lane stretch of highway with dual carriageway, is expected to open in six months, Ballina Shire mayor David Wright said.
"This is a tragic loss of life and shows how imperative this highway upgrade is," Cr Wright said.
However, Mr Siefken said the roadworks had created a hazard for motorists.
Both lanes of the highway are now open.
Wednesday's crash is hauntingly similar to a crash in nearby Broken Head in 2006 that claimed the lives of four teenage friends and shocked the community.
Four years later, three friends in their 20s were killed on the Pacific Highway at Ewingsdale when their car collided with a B-double truck.
More recently, a 41-year-old man and a 72-year-old woman were killed in a crash at Woodburn, south of Ballina, on the Pacific Highway.