The passing of Joanna Beach and Bondi Reihana Richmond, both 18, in a 4WD accident at the top of the South Island on Monday evening has left a profound impact, with friends and family mourning their loss.

Described as beautiful and amazing, the two young women were driving their 4WD off Beebys Knob track in Mt Richmond Forest Park around 11 pm when the tragic accident occurred. Both hailed from Waikawa near Picton.

In heartfelt online tributes, friends expressed their grief, with one noting, “So sad for all involved. God got two beautiful girls,” while another wrote, “Rest in peace, pretty girls.”

Richmond’s father took to TikTok to pay homage to his daughter, describing her as “the most beautiful, amazing daughter” and expressing his love for her.

Authorities were able to locate the teens thanks to the Apple Crash Detection beacon, which alerted them to the incident by providing coordinates. This technology, triggered by sudden cessation of movement, proved crucial in pinpointing the girls’ location.

Despite efforts from emergency services, including a helicopter, police, police dogs, and Land Search and Rescue staff, the girls were found outside the 4WD down a steep bank.

An investigation into the circumstances of the crash is ongoing, with findings to be presented to the Coroner.

The Beebys Knob track, accessible to 4WD vehicles from December 1 to April 30, required a permit from the Department of Conservation’s Rotoiti Nelson Lakes Visitors Centre, which the girls possessed.

John Wotherspoon, the center’s manager, extended condolences to the families and friends of the deceased, stating, “We extend our condolences to the family and friends of the two young women who died in this tragic accident.”

While no temporary prohibition will be placed on the track, arrangements are being made for a blessing of the land, known as a whakaw─ütea te whenua, in collaboration with mana whenua.

Betty Whyte, principal of Queen Charlotte College, fondly remembered Beach and Richmond as lovely, bubbly girls who were close friends. Starting their high school education at Marlborough Girls’ College before joining Queen Charlotte College in year 10, they were known for their infectious smiles and zest for life.

Reflecting on the tragedy, Whyte emphasized the profound impact it has had on the community, describing it as “a worst nightmare for a parent.”