AJ's swerve saves family

By Philip Chandler

Bungy founder Hackett says car pulled suddenly into his lane, resulting in head-on 'swipe'

Amanda Hackett inspects the family's smashed Toyota. Photo / Mountain Scene
Amanda Hackett inspects the family's smashed Toyota. Photo / Mountain Scene

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

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

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

Two days earlier, Mr Hackett was in Queenstown with business partner Henry van Asch to celebrate the 25th anniversary of AJ Hackett Bungy at their original Kawarau Bridge site.

Now he's laid up at his Hawkes Bay home with two broken ankles.

Mr 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.

"All I can do is swing hard to the left but there's a bank there so I pull back to the right and try to create a gap between the bank and the car and the truck - which I managed to actually do.

(But) her car collected the front right side of ours so it was more of a head-on swipe."

AJ Hackett nurses his broken legs at home. Photo / Mountain Scene
AJ Hackett nurses his broken legs at home. Photo / Mountain Scene

Mr 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 my babies having survived this."

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 children, she focused on her husband.

"He was upside down, sort of slumped on the wheel."

She is angry they have not heard from the 35-year female driver of the other car.

Hackett's historical highs

• In 1987, Hackett bungy-jumped off the Eiffel Tower. He was arrested but released five minutes later.

• A year later he opened the world's first commercial bungy operation near Queenstown.

• AJ Hackett International operates in six countries.

- Mountain Scene

- NZ Herald

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