Sympathy has turned to anger as people in Waimarama try to understand the actions of four adults who crashed a quad bike, critically injuring a 6-year-old girl late on Wednesday night.
The beach community's Jarks Cafe owner Marianne Poszeluk said the crash, which put Ashlee Shorrock in Starship Hospital in Auckland as well as seriously injuring her father, stepmother and two other adults, was the main topic of conversation at the establishment this week.
"When you hear about things like this, the community usually rallies to support the family. My initial thoughts were of sympathy for the parents, for what they were going through," Ms Poszeluk said.
"But yesterday the feeling was one of anger because something like this could have been avoided. Ashlee didn't have a say in the matter and now this beautiful little girl is fighting for her life in Starship Hospital."
Ashlee's father, Daniel, 28, stepmother Stephanie Lucas, 22, and two other young men were believed to have been drinking at Waimarama Beach before driving the quad bike home before midnight. It crashed down a ditch and into a fence of a tennis court on Okaihau Rd.
Ashlee remained in a critical condition at Starship Hospital last night. Of the others involved in the crash, a 28-year-old man was transferred from Hawke's Bay Hospital in Hastings to Middlemore Hospital in Auckland for further specialist treatment.
A 22-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man were discharged from Hawke's Bay Hospital in Hastings. A 20-year-old man was still being cared for at the hospital in Hastings, in a stable condition.
Ms Lucas worked at Jarks Cafe. Ms Poszeluk, who is Ms Lucas' boss, often saw Ashlee and was fond of the Waimarama School pupil.
"This will hit us pretty hard. How can we convince people not to do something like this again? That's what everyone is asking at the moment," Ms Poszeluk said.
"Waimarama is getting a bad name for things like this happening but it's not a true reflection of the community. Also the fire service out here has been called out too many times for things that could be avoided or should not have happened."
Waimarama School principal Kelly Vaney said her pupils would want to see Ashlee's "smiley face" to start the new school year in February.
"She is a happy, young little girl who is very playful and imaginative. She loved coming to school," Ms Vaney said.
"I've just been trying to send some things up to Starship for her.
"It must be tough for a little girl to have to go through all of this and by the sound of things it's going to take a long time for her to get through it all."
A doctor on duty at Hawke's Bay Hospital when the injured group were brought in said innocent people will continue to be hurt if there is not a change in attitudes towards alcohol.
Scott Boyes said the crash brought home the impact of New Zealand's culture of drinking and what was acceptable.
"It doesn't seem right, it's very sad," Dr Boyes told Radio NZ yesterday. He said that during the holiday period there had been a record number of patients admitted with injuries related to drunkenness.
"What we would really like is to be more proactive in changing our attitudes to drinking and what we see is responsible drinking.
"The quad bike accident illustrates that to us - what is responsible? Is this acceptable behaviour? And really making those decisions before we get into scenarios where alcohol is involved.
"Because we've all made bad decisions when we were drinking too much," Dr Boyes said.
Senior Sergeant Luke Shadbolt said police were yet to determine who was driving the quad bike when it rolled but the crash was the result of "the stupidity of the adults", who were all aged between 20 and 28.
"When they were admitted to hospital last night we took blood samples of all four adults for analysis, and there may well be charges pending as a result."