For Simon Evans a routine concrete pumping job turned into a leap for his life after his seven-tonne truck's handbrake failed and it began crashing down a pathway of steps on Napier Hill yesterday morning.

Mr Evans, who is owner-operator of Evans and Browne Concrete Pumping, said he parked up about 7.30am near the end of Harvey Rd where the steps leading down to Sealy Rd start. "I put the handbrake on and we went down to the path to look at the job."

He and his workers were looking to lay concrete down beside the steps and were familiar with the site.

Mr Evans said the first he knew the vehicle was on the move was when one of his crew turned and yelled "here comes your truck!"

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"It was rolling down pretty good and when it hit the kerb it just flew - we just jumped out of the way."

The truck bounced and crashed down the steps for about 20m, knocking down walkway railings as it went.

Only a bend in the pathway prevented it going any further.

Had it continued it would have ended up in the front section of a house further down the hill.

"The good thing is no one got hurt - it could have been bad - I'm pretty shaken," he said.

Mr Evans said only five minutes before it happened some children had been walking up the steps.

"That is pretty scary - don't want to even think about it."

The eventual impact smashed the truck's cab and tore the driver's side door off.

It was likely to be a write-off.

A nearby resident said she heard a loud "bang" but initially did not think anything of it as there had been work going on around the neighbourhood recently.

"It was only when I saw the police car lights flashing later that I realised something had happened," she said.

Police called in heavy-towing specialists and the tricky job of slowly dragging the truck back up to the road got under way just after 9am.

Rod Naylor from Hawke's Bay Towing said while the incident was unusual it posed no great issues.

"The rope we're using is rated to 26 tonnes and it's only seven tonnes - so not a problem."

The truck was carefully dragged up and taken away about an hour later.

Mr Evans said there had been no indications there was anything wrong with the handbrake which had never failed before.

Police crash specialists would be checking it out. He said the work would go on as he had a second vehicle, although there was now railing and ground repair work to be done first.