Four men had a lucky escape when a falling tree hit their van at Te Puna during the morning rush-hour yesterday.

"We heard the crack," Anton Jackson of Coolstore Services said, recounting the freak and spectacular incident on the downhill bend in the highway just past Mr McGregors Fruit Shop.

Jackson and his workmates were travelling to a job when the tree fell across the road and collected the van.

Company director Clinton Mills of Maketu said it was a lucky escape, with a sore knee the only injury caused by the impact. The injury was not severe enough to need medical attention.

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But the damage to the van was pretty substantial and would probably not be worth fixing, he said.

By the time Mills arrived at the scene, the tree was off the road, a lady was giving the guys hugs, and they were laughing it off. ''They did not seem too distraught.''

He said the men were doubly lucky that no car was travelling close behind because the tree stopped the van dead in its tracks.

Mills said the whole tree came down, hit the van and then rolled off the front while a main branch dinged into the side door.

Jackson joked to the Bay of Plenty Times how his foremen, who had the sore knee, ''screamed like a girl'' when the tree fell on the van.

He said they all felt pretty lucky that they weren't seriously injured.

"We deserve a beer now," he said.

Police were called shortly after at 8am to the tree which blocked both lanes. Bystanders helped shift the tree off the road so commuters were able to resume their trips to work.

Drivers were advised to expect delays while police and a council contractor worked to clear the tree.