James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Sole survivor of fatal crash saw 'giant light'

Benjamin Blake of Chile was the only survivor of this crash which killed four others. Photo / One News
Benjamin Blake of Chile was the only survivor of this crash which killed four others. Photo / One News

The sole survivor of a crash two weeks ago at National Park has spoken of a bright light approaching, seconds before the collision claimed the lives of four South American tourists.

Benjamin Blake, 25, from Chile remains at Waikato Hospital in a stable condition following the crash.

"As I write I cannot take out of my head my four friends that left with one last victory in their heart and the memory of that last night where five of us we felt so happy to achieve our goal," he said in a statement reliving the event.

His fellow Argentine skifield workers, German Caceres, 35, Agustin Donofrio, 25, Luciano Pucheta, 19, and Nicolas Ursic, 27, were killed in the head-on crash as they drove back to their accommodation in Whakapapa after an indoor soccer game.

Police said the Holden Commodore the five men were in was overtaking in a dip in the road, just north of the Makatote Viaduct, when a truck and trailer came around a corner from the opposite direction.

Inspector Steve Mastrovich said the car "smacked head-on into the truck and trailer".

Any prudent driver would not have overtaken another vehicle along that section of road, he said.

Mr Blake has a broken left leg, two broken bones in his left forearm, two broken ribs and grazes on his body.

In the statement, written in Spanish, Mr Blake said he felt "fully gratified to be able to enjoy a great peace" while living in a town in National Park.

Mr Blake said he remembered talking about the game and then "a giant light dazzling our eyes".

"After a long silence (for me), I began to hear the loud sound of a helicopter and a lot of screaming people about to organise something, in my vision I can't remember much, I couldn't see or feel my body.

"I woke up after a few hours in bed, four people looking at me and asking questions, which I couldn't understand much. Gradually they starting telling me what happened, and still found it hard to understand.

"After a few hours my girlfriend Macarena came to the room, hugged me and we cried. She explained what had happened and that my four fiends had died.

"Many doctors have checked on me. I have had surgery in my abdomen and multiple fractures. I still have difficulties to move, but I am improving rapidly thanks to the care received in the hospital.

"I am very grateful to the doctors, so many nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapist, dietitian and all of those who have eased my pain and are making my recovery possible.

"I hope to return to my home in Chile soon, but I will never forget what this country and Waikato Hospital have done for me."

Waikato Hospital trauma director, Grant Christey, said Mr Blake has come through all his surgery and is recovering well.

"Hopefully he'll be heading home in the next few weeks. He's made fantastic progress.

Dr Christey said Mr Blake's recollection of events was understandably poor but he was "extremely fit" which has likely helped with his recovery.

"I'm sure this has made a big difference, he has recovered very quickly from a serious set of injuries.

"He's lucky not to have suffered a brain injury and should have a reasonable recovery."

Dr Christey said Mr Blake was now freely conversing with family members in his ward and to his friends in Chile via email.

"He's got a very supportive family who have been by his side. Obviously he's got a lot to deal with but I think he's coping well," said Mr Christey.

- Additional reporting by James Ihaka of the NZ Herald

apnz bm gf

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 24 Sep 2014 00:25:20 Processing Time: 670ms