Horror day on roads

ONE man is dead and another in a critical condition following separate accidents on Hunter roads that contributed to a horror 24-hour period across NSW.

The man died after the car he was driving ploughed into a tree near Kitchener about 2.30pm yesterday.

Only hours before, a motorcyclist had lost control of his machine and crashed during a high-speed chase near Heatherbrae.

Police and paramedics called to Abernethy Road, Kitchener, found the driver in the badly damaged car but were unable to revive him.

He had not been identified last night.

Earlier in the day, the motorcyclist allegedly reached speeds in excess of 180km/h during a pursuit through the Port Stephens area. The rider of the high-performance Suzuki GSX-R allegedly failed to stop for a random breath test at Fern Bay about 11.30am, prompting a number of highway patrol officers to give chase.

The chase headed north on Nelson Bay Road before turning west on to Cabbage Tree Road, then north on to Masonite Road.

The motorbike allegedly reached speeds of 150km/h and 180km/h at various stages of the pursuit before the rider lost control on a bend about 800 metres east of the Pacific Highway at Heatherbrae.

Masonite Road was closed in both directions as the Westpac rescue helicopter landed to take the rider to John Hunter Hospital where he was in a critical condition last night.

Police are investigating the chase. The Hunter incidents are on top of the deaths of four people in three separate Boxing Day accidents in the south and central west areas of the state and in western Sydney.

In Holbrook, in the state's south, an elderly couple from Fiji were killed and five other family members were injured when their seven-seater Nissan Patrol left the Hume Highway and rolled.

The couple were visiting Sydney with family members from Canberra.

At Hargreaves, in the central west, a passenger was killed when a car left the road and hit a tree at 1.45pm.

At Marsden Park, in Sydney's west, one car driver died and another was taken to hospital suffering from shock after their vehicles collided just before 6.50am.

The accidents have prompted police to urge drivers to take more care in the wet.

Police say there has been alarming evidence of erratic driving on the state's roads.

In another incident yesterday, motorists travelling south on the F3 near Kariong endured lengthy delays because of a car fire.

The fire closed one of three southbound lanes about 12.30pm on the approach to Mooney Creek Bridge.

The national holiday road toll stands at 16.

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