Body of missing truck driver found

By Matthew Theunissen, Matthew Backhouse, Lisa Laity

The body of a man has been found in the Waihohonu Stream during the recovery of a truck and trailer which crashed on the Desert Road early this morning.

The discovery was made as the cab of the partially submerged truck was lifted from the water using a crane. The body was located in the water beneath the vehicle.

State Highway 1 Tongariro has now reopened just before 9pm tonight after being closed most of the day.

Police can confirm that the driver is a 50-year-old man from Porirua but his name is not expected to be released until tomorrow.

Environment Waikato had taken over responsibility for retrieving the hazardous chemicals involved in the crash between Waiouru and Turangi this morning. None of the chemicals the truck had been carrying have leaked into the waterway.

"We have worked closely with Environment Waikato and it appears as though none of the chemicals have leaked into the waterway,'' Fire Service Assistant Area Commander Nigel Richards said earlier today.

"Contractors are now working with Environment Waikato and the police to clean up the site and retrieve the containers that fell into the Waihohonu Stream.''

Emergency services were called to the scene outside Tongariro National Park about 4.22am after the B-train truck plunged into the stream.

It was originally feared there were radioactive substances on board but none were found.

"We've gone through the manifest, and the company as well, and it's confirmed that [the truck] was carrying no radioactive substance,'' Fire Service northern communications shift manager Jaron Phillips said.

The truck's spilled cargo forced the closure of the Desert Rd and the nearby Rangipo power station while emergency services searched for the missing driver.

Mr Phillips said the truck contained aerosol containers and was also believed to contain an environmentally hazardous insecticide called alpha-cypermethrin.

Mr Richards said the truck and trailer unit had been carrying more than 45 tonnes of general cargo as well as three 50kg containers of swimming pool cleaner and twelve 1200ml containers of another potentially harmful chemical.

Numerous organisations responded to the incident, including the local council, police, the Fire Service hazardous materials unit and the National Radiation Laboratory.

Genesis Energy spokesman Richard Gordon said the Rangipo Power Station had been closed as a result of the crash.

- APNZ

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