Corazon Miller is a NZ Herald reporter

Pair rescued from ute trapped in Hutt River

Rescue teams working to bring the pair safely ashore after their vehicle becomes stuck in water. Photo / Supplied via police
Rescue teams working to bring the pair safely ashore after their vehicle becomes stuck in water. Photo / Supplied via police

A man and woman, believed to be under the influence of alcohol, had to be rescued after the ute they were driving got stranded in the rapidly surging waters of the Hutt River last night.

Police have berated the couple for exercising poor judgment in attempting to drive through the river despite the poor weather.

They said it became apparent, after the pair were rescued, that alcohol might have been a factor.

"Police are disappointed in the poor judgment shown by these individuals and the risk they posed to themselves and those coming to their rescue, by attempting to drive in the water in these conditions," a statement said.

The Fire Service, Civil Defence rescue teams, police (including a dive squad) and the ambulance service all came to the aid of the pair stranded on top of the vehicle.

A Fire Service spokesman said the team were called via 111 shortly after 9pm and had two trucks at the river by the Totara Park bridge in Upper Hutt by 9.26.

"On arrival we found the 4WD stuck in the water, and the river was rapidly rising," he said. "There were two people on top of the vehicle unable to get to the bank."

He said the crew assisted the swift-water rescue team that had been called to the riverbank by police and helped to provide life-jackets and other safety gear to winch the pair to safety.

The spokesman said it took the multi-agency rescue team another 20 minutes to get the pair off the top of the vehicle, with the aid of life-jackets and ropes.

The woman was rescued at 9.51 and the man a few minutes later.

He said they probably had a bit of hypothermia and were being treated by ambulance staff.

The Fire Service spokesman said there had been solid rain in the Wellington region which could give rise to higher river levels and surging currents.

Police said they'd be talking to the pair about what happened.

Meanwhile, further south, heavy rain also caused some floods to close roads and a creek to burst its banks on the West Coast.

State Highway 63 was closed due to the flooding from the overflowing creek between Hector and Mokihinui.

The highway between Karamea and Granity was also closed.

Police said there was no indication yet as to when the roads would reopen.

MetService forecast indicated the rain was set to continue for the next few days on the West Coast, but was expected to ease in the capital today.

- NZ Herald

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