Police were last night searching for the driver of a car which burst into flames after it crashed into a power pole on Te Aute Rd yesterday afternoon.
Emergency services responded to the accident, near the Longlands Rd, Hastings junction, which happened at about 5pm, after local residents reported an explosion.
The Fire Service was first to arrive on the scene but fire crews and police could not locate the driver.
Sergeant Ray Kirkby said a light brown Ford was travelling north at speed when witnesses alleged it lost control on the bend before the intersection, left the road, crashed into the power pole - knocking out power to more than 1000 homes - and exploded into flames.
"At this stage we don't know exactly how fast he was travelling or why the car lost control. The driver did manage to escape the burning car and was quickly picked up by another vehicle before leaving the scene," he said.
"We are launching an inquiry into the driver and the car that picked him up, which has been described as a black matte Ford."
He said police would like to hear from anyone who saw a light brown Ford travelling North on Te Aute Rd between Pakipaki and Longlands Road around the time of the accident.
A motorist who was driving south toward Pakipaki came perilously close to a head-on collision when he saw the car "flying" around the bend.
"I was going into the corner when I saw the car come around - he must have been going 160km/h - he would have been lucky if his wheels were still on the ground," the motorist said.
"He overcorrected after straddling the centre line and then there was a flash of lightning - he smashed into the power pole after jumping clean over the ditch.
"Then the back of the car just blew up. Obviously the gas tank had been split in half and the power lines were hanging over the car - then he ran away from the car and one of his mates came and picked him up."
Te Aute Rd resident Tim Symes was in his home when he heard an explosion from the road and went to investigate.
"I came out with my fire extinguisher, saw the car in flames and realised the fire was way too big."
Hastings Fire Service senior station officer Dennis O'Leary said the car brought down the power pole which also caught on fire.
"The power lines were still hooked to the pole so we had to just contain the fire.
"It appears it was the back of the car which brought down the power pole. That would have caused the fuel to leak and that's where the fire would have started - presumably from the hot exhaust."
Unison customer relations officer Danny Gough said 1060 homes lost power as a result of the crash.
"The power pole broke but the lines hadn't snapped, so we didn't have to disengage the power - but when there is a violent movement the power automatically trips out anyway."
When Hawke's Bay Today went to print, Unison workers were still attempting to reconnect power to 13 homes and repair the broken pole.
Fellow resident Kim Sole phoned emergency services after hearing the crash and seeing the engulfed vehicle.
She said that stretch of road was becoming particularly notorious for crashes and had "way too many accidents".