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'Her face was covered in blood': Mum, baby showered in glass when car crashed into eatery

Author
Cherie Howie,
Publish Date
Sun, 19 May 2024, 9:51am

'Her face was covered in blood': Mum, baby showered in glass when car crashed into eatery

Author
Cherie Howie,
Publish Date
Sun, 19 May 2024, 9:51am

WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES

A mother and her 14-month-old baby narrowly escaped death after a motorist drove into a Subway restaurant, leaving the pair bloodied and the baby girl needing surgery to her face.

Victory Leavai and her daughter Elishama were sitting by the window at the franchise’s Manurewa outlet just after 10am on May 4 when the “terrifying” incident took place, Leavai said.

She contacted the Herald because she wanted bollards installed outside the eatery - which was the scene of an almost identical crash three years ago - with one of the site’s owners confirming yesterday afternoon that they were in the process of getting the protective barriers installed.

On the morning of the incident, Leavai had chosen a table next to the window and was holding Elishama while looking outside when they were thrown from their seat and showered in glass.

“I had two or three bites of my sandwich and saw a man driving into [a parking space] ... then he’s like rammed into us, well into the restaurant.

“We got knocked over, we fell backwards ... I still had my baby in my arms on top of me, she was crying [and] I just felt fear because all her face was covered in blood.”

The scene immediately after the driver of an SUV car drove into Manurewa Subway on May 4, injuring Victory Leavai and her 14-month-old daughter Elishama.
The scene immediately after the driver of an SUV car drove into Manurewa Subway on May 4, injuring Victory Leavai and her 14-month-old daughter Elishama.

Although she now believed the crash was not malicious, she initially feared it might be an act of terror, the 39-year-old said.

She quickly “took cover”, rushing towards the only other person in the eatery at the time - a Subway staff member so shocked she initially couldn’t speak. She was soon able to call emergency services, albeit through tears, said Leavai.

“I was very scared because I saw the guy before he rammed into us, he looked at me. I was thinking he might be a terrorist.

“[And] if we’d sat next to the window, instead of with the table between the window and us, it could’ve been fatal.”

Victory Leavai and her daughter Elishama, 14 months, immediately after they were injured when a car smashed into Manurewa Subway while the pair ate breakfast.
Victory Leavai and her daughter Elishama, 14 months, immediately after they were injured when a car smashed into Manurewa Subway while the pair ate breakfast.

Police are investigating, including watching CCTV that captured the incident, Leavai said.

“Victim statements have been taken and one person has had their licence suspended while the investigation is underway”, a police spokesman said yesterday.

She spoke briefly to the driver of the car, a black SUV, before emergency responders arrived, Leavai said.

“He said, ‘I’m so sorry’. He said he pushed the accelerator instead of the brake.”

The man and his passenger weren’t injured, she said.

It was a different story for the Manurewa accountant and her daughter. They were taken to Middlemore Hospital, where she needed stitches to her left leg and Elishama received stitches to her head, lip, gum and left hand - which also had a nerve severed.

Elishama had maxillofacial surgery two days later to stitch her forehead and the lacerations she suffered all over her face, before the pair were discharged from hospital, Leavai said.

“All our injuries were from the glass being broken into the air.”

Victory Leavai's leg injuries, pictured soon after the May 4 incident when she was hurt when a driver crashed their car into Manurewa Subway.
Victory Leavai's leg injuries, pictured soon after the May 4 incident when she was hurt when a driver crashed their car into Manurewa Subway.

Victory Leavai is still recovering, two weeks after she received serious cuts when a driver crashed their car into Manurewa Subway, where Leavai and her daughter were eating breakfast. Photo / Hayden Woodward
Victory Leavai is still recovering, two weeks after she received serious cuts when a driver crashed their car into Manurewa Subway, where Leavai and her daughter were eating breakfast. Photo / Hayden Woodward

Elishama had also had a scan to check for brain bleeds, which came back clear, but she would still need to be fully assessed for possible concussion later.

“We’re healing okay”, Leavai said of their physical injuries.

The psychological impact was another matter.

She was afraid to go back to the scene, and found herself avoiding seats next to windows at other public places, the mum said.

And Elishama was also showing signs of trauma.

“She’s quickly alarmed by loud noises, that’s a new thing after the accident.”

The Great South Rd, Manurewa carpark and retail business area where bollards are to be installed by the site's owners after a second incident of a driver crashing into the Subway eatery. Mum Victory Leavai and her daughter Elishama, 14 months, were injured in the incident on May 4. Photo / Google Streetview
The Great South Rd, Manurewa carpark and retail business area where bollards are to be installed by the site's owners after a second incident of a driver crashing into the Subway eatery. Mum Victory Leavai and her daughter Elishama, 14 months, were injured in the incident on May 4. Photo / Google Streetview

Leavai wanted the car park’s owners to install bollards to stop a possible third incident and for Subway and other eateries vulnerable to people driving into them to use stronger glass for their windows and doors.

Bollards are on the way, said Rajiv Kumar, one of the owners of the car park and adjacent retail buildings, which also include a Noodle Canteen and Asian supermarket.

“Once the glass and everything’s fixed we’re getting bollards, and barriers … just before the footpath.”

He expected they would be installed within the next month, Kumar said.

Victory Leavai, with daughter Elishama, 14 months, doesn't want anyone else to be hurt the way they were - when a driver crashed their car into Subway Manurewa, where the pair were eating breakfast. Photo / Hayden Woodward
Victory Leavai, with daughter Elishama, 14 months, doesn't want anyone else to be hurt the way they were - when a driver crashed their car into Subway Manurewa, where the pair were eating breakfast. Photo / Hayden Woodward

That was a big relief, Leavai said when the Herald told her of the owners’ plans to install the protective measures.

“That’s one of the things I want, for the public, and for me.”

She was still a bit disappointed not to have heard from Subway. The Herald also tried to contact the Manurewa Subway franchisee, without success.

Although the incident wasn’t their fault, it had happened in one of their stores, she said.

“I was their customer … and they haven’t even contacted me.”

Cherie Howie is an Auckland-based reporter who joined the Herald in 2011. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years and specialises in general news and features.

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