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. Mandatory credit: Waikato District

Wanda Rudsits at press conference today.

The 18-year-old involved in a serious crash at Whangamata on the Coromandel yesterday afternoon is Nigel Loll (crrct) Fluharty of Tauranga. Mr Fluharty has multiple fractures, mainly to the left side of his body, his spleen is extensively damaged and he suffered concussion. He remembers nothing of the accident. Today he underwent three and a half hours surgery at Waikato Hospital in Hamilton and faces more surgery in the weeks to come. At a press conference today his mother Wanda Rudsits said she had a premonition on the day about her son going to the Beach Hop but she relented.

"Look at him now - he's the face and the body of what's going on out there. It's a war zone. "Until they raise the driving and drinking age this is going to continue on in New Zealand," Ms Rudsits said. She and her son were due to return to San Francisco next month where Nigel hoped to study theatre production.

Ms Rudsits was born in New Zealand and educated at Melville High School in Hamilton. She spent many years in the US where Nigel was born and the last three years in Tauranga where he attended Otumoetai College. He was in Whangamata with a group of friends from the college when the accident happened. "I didn't want him to go. I had a feeling but he so wanted to see the old cars that I let him go. Now look at what's happened."

A man who police say drove into a group of people outside a Coromandel house in Whangamata has been charged with driving with excess breath alcohol. The driver was not injured and will appear in Waihi District Court on Tuesday. Police say they expect to lay further charges. Large crowds of car enthusiasts were in Whangamata this weekend for the annual Beach Hop, but police say the vehicle's occupants were not taking part in the event. Ms Rudsits said she would attend the court hearing and called on parents to start challenging the driving and drinking habits of young New Zealanders. "I feel safer on the streets of San Francisco than I do here." Nigel's father Daniel Fluharty said from the US this afternoon that his son "is a dynamic , positive, energetic and creative young fellow."

ENDS

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