Now he’s seen it all
SHANE PRESTON HASN’T BEEN DRIVING FULLTIME FOR THAT long. Two or three years tops...although in his previous life as an agricultural contractor the 62-year-old was often behind the wheel.
Short though it has been, his time behind the wheel every day has quickly opened his eyes to the range of stupid things people do on the road – and he was beginning to think he’d seen most of it (maybe even seen it all).
But the Toll van that he saw in his mirrors as he approached Carterton from the north one day in February was something else again, he recalls: “It was all over the place – drifting over the centreline into the face of oncoming traffic, then swerving back to the correct side. This wasn’t a once-off, it happened several times.”
Shane realised he had to do something, and quickly, as a serious crash looked almost inevitable. His cool analysis and prompt response to the situation has now led to his nomination as a CastrolTruckDriverHero – an accolade that recognises drivers who have contributed significantly to the safety of others while working, or in some other way have gone beyond the call of duty for their employer or the industry as a whole. In other words, herotype behaviour needn’t be limited only to road trauma...though in this instance, that was emphatically a likely outcome.
Fearing the van driver was either drunk, drugged or suffering a medical emergency, Shane radioed Graeme Reisima, his boss at Masterton’s Reisima Haulage, to call the Police. Meanwhile, the erratic driving continued. Time and again the van veered to the wrong side, forcing other vehicles to swerve out of its way, then tailgating the Isuzu 8x4 truck and trailer combination Shane was driving.
To compound the situation, a vintage car rally was passing through Carterton at the time and the main street of the Wairarapa
town was carrying more traffic than usual. Several of the rally participants were among those forced into emergency avoidance.
Shane continues: “I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t tell what it was. The oncoming traffic didn’t have many places to go because of the kerb and footpath. When he came up behind me I put the lefthand indicator on to maybe suggest he move across to that side – but he swerved out to the middle of the road.
“So I went with him, to try to block him, to avert a head-on, and slowed down. We weren’t going all that quickly and I had moved back to the left when he crashed into me. I ran back to check if the driver was OK and he was out of it – disoriented and unable to answer my questions.
“An off-duty fireman was driving behind us and had seen the whole episode. He asked the van driver if he was a diabetic and got a confirmation. I grabbed some water I had in the cab and he downed half a bottle, as well as some Coke the fireman had, which brought him round a bit.
“By that time the Police had arrived and got him in their car with the airconditioning going, because he was as hot as blazes.”
Graeme Reisima was at his desk in Masterton when he got the radio call from Shane, telling him of the wildly erratic behaviour of the van and asking him to get in touch with the Police straight away: “I was in the process of calling *555 and also trying to raise Brian Graham, Toll’s Masterton depot manager, when Shane called back to say the van had crashed into the back of his trailer and to call an ambulance.
“I did so and headed straight down to Carterton, by which time the Police were on the scene and were looking after the van driver, and the ambulance was on its way.
“Shane kept a really cool head, but he’s that sort of guy – someone who can stay calm when others might be panicking. When he first called, I thought he sounded pretty stressed, which seemed a bit out of character, but it was only later when I saw the dashcam pictures from the van that I realised the gravity of the situation he was in. Had he not acted as he did, things could have turned out really badly.”
Brian Graham, meanwhile, came across the scene in Carterton quite by coincidence: “I’d been in Martinborough for a meeting and had switched off my phone, so I didn’t realise Graeme Reisima was trying to call me. So it was quite a shock on the way home to come across the incident. We found later that the driver was quite a serious diabetic, but hadn’t been fully aware of his condition.
“Though he came up behind Shane, only when the truck slowed at the outskirts of Carterton, reports from other road users indicate he was having trouble as far back as Masterton, around 15 kilometres up the highway. In fact, Masterton was where he had a scheduled delivery, and he was so far gone he had passed through there without being aware of it!
“I’d really like to see Shane recognised for his professionalism, the way he managed to slow right down, and as much as he could, block the van from oncoming traffic. He made an outstanding call. Commercial drivers and the industry can get bad press at times, but something like this shows people what can be done: There could easily have been a fatality or serious injury, but because of Shane we ended up with no injury, and minimal damage to the vehicles.”
Both Graeme and Brian strongly support Shane’s nomination as a CastrolTruckDriverHero, saying that his quick and calm response was exactly what was needed in the circumstances.
Shane downplays the tag of hero: “It was one of those things. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.” T&D
Hair-raising images from the onboard camera in the Toll van (left), during the driver’s apparent diabetic episode. Motorists, including participants in a vintage car rally, were confronted by the van veering directly into their path....until Shane Preston (above) – seeing it happening in his truck’s rear-vision mirrors – managed to corral the van behind him, preventing a likely head-on accident
Right, top: A number of cars had to take evasive action to avoid a head-on crash before Shane got the opportunity to stop the van Right, bottom: Shane’s first attempt to guide the van off to the side of the road, saw the driver swerve back to the right Below: Shane reckons he’s no hero