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Driver injured after truck tyres fall off, smash car

By Genevieve Helliwell -
John Robinson's Mitsubishi was badly damaged on the road from Tauranga to Te Puke when two wheels came off the truck in front of him and hit the car, injuring Mr Robinson's back and legs. Photo / APN
John Robinson's Mitsubishi was badly damaged on the road from Tauranga to Te Puke when two wheels came off the truck in front of him and hit the car, injuring Mr Robinson's back and legs. Photo / APN

When two giant truck tyres smashed into the front of John Robinson's car on State Highway 2, he thought he was going to die.

"One moment the road was clear, then I saw these tandem truck tyres coming towards me, then bang," he said.

"The noise it made was something you'd never want to experience first-hand.

"At the time I thought of other people who had been killed in car accidents, and this was the noise they heard before they died.

"Then I thought I was going to die."

Police said the trailer that lost the wheels had passed a vehicle inspection in recent weeks.

Mr Robinson, 57, was driving from Tauranga towards his Te Puke home on Monday afternoon, when two rear wheels came off a truck and trailer unit and slammed into the front of his car.

The impact of the tyres, estimated to be travelling at 90km/h, crumpled the front of his car inward, pushed the engine up and bent the bonnet to block his view through the windscreen.

The steering column collapsed, the two front airbags went off and Mr Robinson was trapped in the driver's seat.

"I couldn't move. I'd sustained an injury to my back - the doctors said I'd cracked three vertebrae - and it hurt like hell," he said.

"I got smacked in the nose, I hurt my knees and my shins.

"I remember two guys coming and talking to me but I didn't want them to see any blood, so I wiped if off before they came over."

Seconds before the tyres hit his vehicle, Mr Robinson saw them rise into the air and, as a reflex, he turned the steering wheel to the left.

The impact "smashed the steering" and he had no control of the vehicle.

"I saw the tyres coming towards me and the first thing I thought was 'what the f-word' then the next thing I know I was going down a hill. I couldn't believe it had hit me," he said.

"I didn't have time to put my foot on the brake but if I did [the tyres] would have hit me higher and I'm sure I would have been dead. I'm just so happy to be alive.

"I don't know what inspired me to turn the steering wheel before it hit but I'm really happy that happened because I could have hurt a lot of people if I'd gone into the other lane of traffic.

"I'm really happy no one else was hurt but I'm a bit despondent it hit me."

Mr Robinson was taken to Tauranga Hospital after the accident and was treated in the emergency department and discharged.

His daughter picked him up from Te Puke and drove him back to her Rotorua home, where he spent the day with family.

"It was a hell of a drive coming down, where every bump on the road hurt like hell, but my daughter was very upset and I'd do anything for my family and to alleviate their pain."

"Today's been hell and it hurts moving around.

"I'm pretty bruised up but I'll be back soon. I just feel so lucky to be alive, even with all this pain."

Sergeant Mike Owen of Te Puke said: "It appears the trailer, where the dual tyres came off, had not long undergone an inspection and passed.

"It was a COF [certificate of fitness] inspection. The driver has said this happened in the last week or so."

Mr Owen said it was not clear if the wheel nuts had come loose or if the wheels had "sheered off", as indicated in the initial police report.

The police commercial vehicle investigation unit is investigating.

Mr Owen said these results were expected to be available in about a week.

- APN

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