The Northern Advocate - - Front Page - — Ad­di­tional re­port­ing Dan­ica MacLean

Colleen Donker was only cen­time­tres away from be­ing crushed in her ve­hi­cle when a rub­bish truck slammed into a rail­way over­bridge and rolled in cen­tral Whanga¯rei.

It was one of three crashes within an hour that cre­ated traf­fic chaos and kept emer­gency ser­vices busy around Whanga¯rei yes­ter­day.

The Parakao farmer heard a bang and felt a jolt be­fore she looked in the Toy­ota Land Cruiser’s rear vi­sion mir­ror and saw the truck, owned by Waste Man­age­ment, on its side un­der the rail bridge on Rust Ave about 1pm.

It was not un­til she stopped and jumped out that she no­ticed the ex­tent of dam­age to the rear of her ve­hi­cle.

Ini­tial po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions showed an Auck­land-based truck driver, who was brought to Whanga¯rei as a re­liever, was on his first job when the in­ci­dent hap­pened.

The driver was fol­low­ing his GPS and head­ing to­wards the old li­brary when the hoist for the rub­bish bin clipped the over­head bridge. Donker was head­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion when the rolling truck caught the rear of her Land Cruiser, which was writ­ten off.

“I heard a bang and felt a jolt and looked in my side mir­ror and saw the truck on its side. I jumped out and said ‘Praise the Lord’. At that stage, I wasn’t even aware my ve­hi­cle had been dam­aged.

“It’s not luck. It’s the God that I be­lieve pro­tects us. If it was go­ing to be my time, I would have been hit in the front and I’d have been taken out.” She was the sole oc­cu­pant.

The male truck driver climbed out and was helped by a mem­ber of the pub­lic un­til St John paramedics ar­rived. He suf­fered a sus­pected frac­ture to his arm and was taken to Whanga¯rei Hospi­tal.

Anita Mauger, of Christchurch, had parked her car me­tres away from where the truck landed on its side and was pay­ing for the park­ing when she heard a “mas­sive bang”.

“I thought there was an earthquake and turned around and saw the truck on its side. I then went to the front of the

truck to check on the driver and by that time there were other peo­ple check­ing on him.”

Sergeant Phil Hal­ton, of the po­lice com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle safety team, said in­ves­ti­ga­tions to de­ter­mine how the out-of-town driver mis­judged the height of the bridge were con­tin­u­ing. The road re­opened about 3.45pm.

Waste Man­age­ment did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Mean­while State High­way 1, on a danger­ous stretch of road south of Whanga¯rei, was also blocked for two hours af­ter a crash in­volv­ing three cars just north of the in­ter­sec­tion with Man­ga­pai Rd.

Po­lice said that about 1.30pm an un­li­censed north­bound driver and a south­bound mo­torist collided headon. The south­bound ve­hi­cle then clipped a sec­ond south­bound ve­hi­cle trav­el­ling be­hind.

The north­bound driver was un­in­jured and the two south­bound driv­ers had mi­nor in­juries.

Po­lice were able to open one lane about 2pm af­ter heavy traf­fic started to build up and re­opened the road fully around 3pm.

It was a lucky es­cape for three young Auck­lan­ders af­ter the car they were in rolled down a bank off Mat­apouri Rd and came to a stop against a to¯tara tree about 2pm yes­ter­day.

Frances Mor­ri­son was a pas­sen­ger in the car which was head­ing to­wards Tu­tukaka.

She said the driver spun out on the cor­ner by the look­out and hit the bank on the left-hand side of the road.

The car rolled as it went down the bank off the other side of the road, stop­ping on its side about five me­tres down: “I can’t be­lieve that we came out not in­jured. It could have been way worse if the tree wasn’t there.”

The three peo­ple climbed out the driver’s win­dow. Po­lice said the driver was dis­qual­i­fied.

Pho­tos / Ta­nia Whyte

Clock­wise from above: The driver of this rub­bish truck crashed its hoist into a rail bridge; Colleen Donker was nearly crushed by the hoist; Frances Mor­ri­son (left) with brother Kent Mor­ri­son af­ter the car she was in left the road; Donker’s car.

Photo / Sup­plied

State High­way 1 in Oak­leigh was blocked for two hours af­ter a three-car crash.

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