Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Scooter crash leaves elderly man trapped on steep bank

File photo / APN
File photo / APN

An elderly man who clung to bushes for six hours this morning after crashing his mobility scooter down a steep bank believes rescuers reached him only hours before his possible death.

Tokoroa man John Wellman, 82, was pulled from the bank, off Manfield Street, at about 12.30am by local firefighters after his family reported him missing at 11pm.

Mr Wellman, who recently suffered a stroke, was on his way back from a friend's house when his scooter suddenly became unbalanced on the road-edge.

He told APNZ an attempt to go around a power pole on the side of the road led to the tumble.

Before he knew it, he was metres down the bank with his scooter over the top of his legs.

"It doesn't go down gradually, it just goes down," Mr Wellman said.

"It would have taken me an hour to retrieve my legs from the bottom of the scooter."

"I tried to make a clearance to get up to the top but the gradient was so steep and I'm a recent stroke victim so there was no way I could climb up.

"I felt around [the bushes] so I could get a bit of traction. I just settled there until the search party came round."

Mr Wellman said he focused all his energy on staying on the bank because the creek at the bottom "was rising to fast [and] the rain was coming down."

"It's probably life and death. I wasn't going to go into that creek, it was rising fast. I was going to try and make the top.

"It was just a few more feet away from me, but I realised I was never going to make it."

After a while, Mr Wellman began to contemplate the worst.

"The rain was coming down. I was lucky because I was under the flowers of a big tree and that was absorbing most of the rain because I didn't feel it.

"I was just getting cold. My ability to keep going was limited because of my stroke, really.

"I've got nothing left. I thought, a few hours really - I've got to give up after a while.

"It was a case of survival."

Suddenly, "all these bright lights came up from nowhere," he said.

Mr Wellman's grandson, Jeff Southby, said they had managed to locate the 82-year-old after his work mate's 13-year-old son heard him calling out.

"My partner posted up on the Genuine Tokoroa Facebook page [about John], once people saw that all the community started coming out and looking and texting and putting it up on Facebook."

The Fire Service, who used a stretcher to get Mr Wellman, said he was about 15 metres down the bank when they reached him.

Mr Wellman was taken to Tokoroa hospital where he was treated to a hot shower and cleaned up.

He emerged relatively unscathed, with only scratches to his arms, head and legs.

"I'm good as gold now ... but [the scooter's] looking a bit sad," Mr Wellman said.


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