Bungy king AJ Hackett lucky to be alive after head-on crash

By Philip Chandler of Mountain Scene

AJ Hackett has two broken ankles and a wrecked car after the crash. Photo / Mountain Scene
AJ Hackett has two broken ankles and a wrecked car after the crash. Photo / Mountain Scene

Bungy pioneer AJ Hackett is lucky to be alive after a high-speed head-on road smash.

Hackett's wife Amanda said his quick swerve to avoid a full collision with the oncoming car probably saved their lives and those of her children in the back seat.

"I'm just so grateful," said Mrs Hackett said of last Thursday's smash.

Two days earlier, Hackett was in Queenstown with bungy co-founder Henry van Asch to celebrate the 25th anniversary of bungy at their original Kawarau Bridge site - now he's laid up in his Hawkes Bay home with two broken ankles.

Hackett, who expects to be confined to a wheelchair for weeks, said an oncoming car pulled suddenly into his lane, attempting to pass a truck.

"The truck's already on me and I see these [other] bloody lights.

"I had less than a second to do something or we're dead - I've had quite a few of these type of experiences, you act very fast, it's just an instinctive thing," he said.

"All I can do is swing it hard to the left but then there's a bank there so I pull it back to the right and try to create a gap between the bank and the car and the truck - which I managed to actually be able to do. [But] her car collected the front right side of ours so it was more of a head-on swipe."

Hackett said he was left hanging upside down in his upturned car for about 20 minutes: "It was a very heavy level of pain."

Mrs Hackett recalled both headlights bearing down on their car before impact: "I just remember thinking I can't imagine all my babies could have survived this - for a mother there's nothing worse."

After the car flipped, her children, 12, 10 and 9, undid their seatbelts and climbed out through a window, shocked but unscathed.

"I panicked. My seatbelt was stuck, I managed to force it free.

"AJ was, like, 'just stay here' and then I got claustrophobic and I was like, 'no, I've got to get to my babies', and I crawled underneath him out the windows."

After accounting for her kids, she focused n her husband. "He was upside down, sort of slumped on the wheel.

"It was pretty awful, he was stuck in there for some time."

She was angry they hadn't heard from the 35-year female driver of the other car.

"She never once apologised, asked who was in the car, nothing."

It's been a rollercoaster month for the Hackett bungy family - nine days before the 25th birthday celebrations, veteran Queenstown bungy manager Tony Middendorf was killed in a motorbike accident.

Hackett had been due to leave New Zealand last Sunday to visit several of his bungy sites including a huge new venture under construction in Sochi, Russia: "This sort of puts a big spanner in the works, but all the troops have been amazing."

- Mountain Scene

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