Lucky escape for ute driver

By Kristin Edge

8 comments
A piece of suspension that came off a loaded logging truck and became a deadly missile. Photo / Michael Cunningham
A piece of suspension that came off a loaded logging truck and became a deadly missile. Photo / Michael Cunningham

A Whangarei motorist was forced to make a split second decision and swerve on to the wrong side of State Highway 1 to avoid a chunk of steel suspension from a loaded logging truck after it became a potentially lethal missile.

Marine engineer Gary Mitchell said the length of steel suspension, weighing more than 5kg, sparked as it hit the road and forced him to take immediate evasive action as he drove about 100km/h on the open road on his daily commute to work in Whangarei last Thursday.

He swerved on to the wrong side of the road to miss the projectile which passed by the passenger's side of his ute. Fortunately there was no oncoming traffic on the stretch of highway known as the Otonga Flats, near Whakapara, at 6.45am.

"I was following this truck watching the trailer swerve over the road. Then it went over a bump and something came off. I saw it and then it hit the roads and there were sparks," Mr Mitchell said.

"I thought it was a bit of bark that's until I saw the sparks."

Fortunately Mr Mitchell was travelling at a safe distance which allowed him to react and avoid the piece of leaf spring suspension from the rear trailer unit.

"I tend to stay well back from those trucks."

Mr Mitchell followed the truck and attempted to get the driver's attention by flashing his lights.

It wasn't until the logging truck stopped at a red light at the intersection with Western Hills Drive, Mr Mitchell was able to stop his ute, put on the hazard lights and rap on the truck driver's door.

The truck driver checked his rig and noticed a piece of the trailer's leaf suspension had snapped off. "He hadn't noticed anything wrong at all."

Mr Mitchell said the near miss highlighted the need for truck drivers to regularly inspect their trucks and trailers in between routine maintenance checks.

On his way to work the following morning he noticed the spring was still on the side of the road so he collected it. He tried to write down the registration number of the truck but his pen failed. Unfortunately such reports of springs coming off trucks is not uncommon.

In July last year a 50cm length of leaf suspension smashed through the windscreen of car near Whangarei and landed in the passenger seat. Nobody was injured and in a stroke of luck the woman's husband, supposed to be a passenger in the car had been running late and was not in the vehicle.

The woman was merging with other vehicles at the end of passing lanes on the brow of Smeaton Hill when a southbound truck passed in the opposite direction. A 50cm piece of the leaf suspension had come loose from the truck and was thrown into the air.

And in October 2014, a truckie was injured when the suspension on the fully laden logging truck he was driving snapped and caused the vehicle to roll and career across State Highway 1, near Oakleigh.

A woman driving an oncoming car was lucky to escape injury after one of the logs came hurtling towards her. The log ended up wedged under her car.

- Northern Advocate

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