Crashes that hit the funny bone

A look at accidents freakish in nature, insanely lucky or just plain stupid

The Tree of the Tenere, the only tree for 600km, was destroyed by a drunk driver.
The Tree of the Tenere, the only tree for 600km, was destroyed by a drunk driver.

Freak car crashes -- top these

Generally car crashes are no laughing matter. But provided they don't lead to injury, a few freak ones may cause us to either smile, or shake our heads in wonderment. There are plenty of examples, from the worlds of both two and four wheels.

Runaway Jawa
It was a wet day in Taihape in 1978, when two painters working near the Taihape Women's Club heard a two-stroke motor over-revving and then a deafening bang.

They rushed out of the building they'd been working in and found a new-looking 350cc Jawa motorcycle embedded in the club wall.

A couple of minutes later a 20-year-old ran up, huffing and puffing in wet weather gear, boots and gloves. He'd been push-starting his bike in the main street, which had a slight gradient. When the twin cylinders fired up he was unable to hold the heavy machine back. The bike tore itself out of his hands and travelled about half a kilometre, somehow turning a corner before smacking into the concrete wall.

Runaway Yamaha
A couple of years later a Tauranga teenager push-started his small Yamaha motorcycle in his driveway. It must have had a sticky throttle, because it tore off down the kid's drive doing maximum revs. The bike crossed a major suburban street and careered through the open gates of a school. It was a weekend and the office doors were closed, but it smashed through them and wedged itself inside the principal's office.

Five seconds of fame
While working at the old Takapuna Motorcycles shop in Barry's Point Rd in the mid-80s, a colleague and I raised our eyes as a youngster riding a Suzuki 550cc road bike roared into our field of view. We watched as it smashed into a parked car, then as the shaken rider burst into tears and pushed his machine back to Cycle Spot. He had managed to ride his newly purchased bike for maybe three seconds, covering perhaps 150m before writing it off.

Landmark destroyed
The strangest example I've heard of, a freak truck smash happened in 1973 in the Sahara Desert, when a drunken Libyan truck driver knocked down the only tree for 600km.

The "Tree of the Tenere" in Niger had survived against the odds possibly for hundreds of years. The commander of a French military mission, Michel Lesourd, saw the tree growing in the desert in 1939. Lesourd claimed it must have been sacred, having survived hundreds of years of camels stopping to scratch themselves on the trunk, and Arabs stopping to break off branches in order to boil water for their tea. Since the crash the tree has been replaced by a metal sculpture representing a tree.

Wood you believe it
An American man shouldn't be alive after he was rear-ended on a Portland freeway by a truck carrying logs.

Tom Comstock was driving his Nissan SUV home in rush-hour traffic on November 23 last year when the following truck hit him.

"When the truck behind me hit me, he had a bunch of lumber on his truck that went through my back windshield, into and through and around the steering wheel and almost through the glass in the front," Comstock said.

A log just grazed his head, leaving just a scratch.

Comstock got out of his car almost immediately after the crash and a few minutes later noticed paramedics creeping up to the car.

He said they were expecting to see a gruesome scene inside and were relieved to see him standing.

Pops wants a pizza
In January last year an elderly man got his foot stuck on the accelerator of his car and drove into a Valentino's pizza restaurant in Lincoln, US. While concerned citizens called 911, the man placed an order for a pizza from inside his car. The Honda Fit (known as the Jazz in NZ), seemed the "perfect fit" to go right through the restaurant's double doors. "He seemed very calm and collected. I was amazed," said a bystander.

Youthful arrogance
At the defunct Taranaki Herald in the 1970s, a teenage reporter on his first day at work, was instructed to take one of the company's Mini 850s out on a job. He drove about 50m to the nearest intersection where he ran a red light and wrote off the car. My recollection is that the lad was uninjured, but fired soon after. According to office folklore no one had checked if he had the driver's licence he claimed.

*Heard any crazy car crash stories? We'd love to hear them but only those where the foolishness of those concerned stops short of causing injury. Contact us at

- NZ Herald

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