A disqualified driver who sped up and crashed shortly after an ambulance activated its flashing lights appears to have mistaken the emergency vehicle for a police car.
Two men, including the 21-year-old driver, were seriously injured in the crash on State Highway 1, about 1km away from the turn-off to SH29 to Tauranga, about 10.15pm yesterday.
Police believe the driver accelerated away from the ambulance because he was trying to flee what he thought was a police car. The man was disqualified from driving and the Holden Commodore he was in did not have a current warrant of fitness or registration.
Waikato road policing manager Inspector Marcus Lynam said the ambulance had been on its way to a high-priority job in Matamata when it activated its emergency lights behind the car.
He said the car's driver appeared to have mistaken the ambulance's red flashing lights for the blue and red flashing lights of a police car.
The car sped up, lost control after a short distance, and crashed into a rock on the opposite side of the road.
Mr Lynam said the car hit the rock with such force its engine stayed in the northbound lane while the vehicle careered back into the opposite lane.
The ambulance then rounded a corner and clipped the car in the middle of the road before coming to a stop, he said.
"The ambulance driver was shaken but uninjured in the crash while the other driver and a male passenger fled the scene, despite suffering serious injuries.''
The men were found in bushes a short time later and were airlifted Waikato Hospital with serious injuries. A female passenger suffered minor injuries.
The Waikato police serious crash unit was investigating.
Police are also awaiting the results of blood tests to determine if alcohol played a part in the crash.