The victims of an accident on the Otira Gorge yesterday were taking equipment to a Greymouth Chinese restaurant owner who lost two businesses to the Christchurch earthquake.
One died and two others were injured after the truck they were travelling in plunged 15m off the lower gorge highway about 12.30pm.
The truck smashed through a barrier below the viaduct and rock shelter, and landed on the dry riverbed while descending the steep alpine decline to the West Coast.
Danian Xu, 49, was a chef and had been in New Zealand for a short time on a work visa. He lived in Christchurch with his wife and son.
He was a passenger in the truck with two other Chinese men who live in New Zealand. The trio was taking restaurant supplies to Greymouth where they were due to open a restaurant at the end of this week.
The 40-year-old driver suffered a broken jaw and cuts to his face and head in the accident. He underwent surgery last night.
The other passenger, a 39 year old man, has spinal injuries and was also having surgery last night.
The Greymouth Star understands the victims were bringing equipment to the new Sam Pan restaurant, in Albert Street. The restaurant, which was due to open on Friday, is owned by restaurateur Yu Ouyang.
Mr Ouyang has another restaurant in Dunedin, but of his two Christchurch businesses, one is in the process of being demolished and the other is stuck in the red zone.
He could not be reached for comment today.
Senior sergeant Allyson Ealam, of Greymouth police, said it appeared the driver had lost control of the rented truck while coming down the steep, narrow stretch of State highway 73 between the rock shelter and Windy Point.
The truck tipped on its side before crashing through the safety barrier and plunging down a sheer face to the riverbed below.
A preliminary check of the crash site found restaurant equipment, including food material believed to be cooking oil.
"At this stage we're sending a guy up to make an assessment on what needs to be done," West Coast Regional Council consents and compliance manager Colin Dall said.
The council was working with the Department of Conservation to co-ordinate the cleanup, because the food material would affect how they could dispose of the truck wreck.
Police have not yet been able to speak to the men about the circumstances leading up to the accident and the matter is still under investigation.By Christine Linnell of the Greymouth Star