Lucky to be alive after daring leap from speeding truck

By Victoria White -

He's known as Lucky Phil but when he was jumping from a truck travelling 125km/h he didn't feel too lucky - he thought he was going to die.

Hastings man Phillip Gotty has been recovering in Hawke's Bay Hospital since January 17, when he was left in a critical condition after his brakes failed and truck rolled while travelling the Napier-Taihape Rd.

Police are investigating the brake failure, which occurred as Mr Gotty drove down a hill in the Nga Mahanga area while transporting shingle.

The wreck of a truck driven by Phil Gotty. Photo / Supplied
The wreck of a truck driven by Phil Gotty. Photo / Supplied

When he was halfway down the hill, Mr Gotty was travelling at 60km/h, with a recommended 35km/h area, and "big drop" looming.

Yesterday, the Mantell-Harding Earthworks driver remembered thinking: "this is going to be a pretty dangerous ending".

"[I was] panicking and planning what am I going to do, do I go with this truck, or do I make an effort to jump."

After hitting 100km/h, Mr Gotty made his decision. A barbed wire fence stood in the way of a softer landing, so "my decision then was to jump and hit the road ... by then I was going about 125km/h".

"I pulled the truck to the left just so it didn't run over me, it was a 50-50 chance whether I would survive or not."

With a vest, pair of shorts, and work boots all the protection he had, Mr Gotty sustained numerous injuries including a head wound, broken ribs, dislocated hand, large cuts to his limbs.

Gotty with his 'lucky' tiki after surviving the jump from his out-of-control truck. Photo / Duncan Brown
Gotty with his 'lucky' tiki after surviving the jump from his out-of-control truck. Photo / Duncan Brown

After regaining consciousness, he was surprised to still be alive.

"I looked around the valley and the truck had been crunched into the bank, and the motor was still winding over but the wheels were all over the place," he said. "I don't know where the back of the trailer was.

"It was a mess, I wouldn't have made it. I think I would have been mince by the looks of it."

People arriving on the scene kept Mr Gotty conscious, as he struggled to breathe with a punctured lung, and began thinking "that's it, I'm gone".

"I was sort of gasping for air and I just looked around and I thought 'oh God, if you're going to take me, take me now'.

"I felt quite comfortable with going because I just felt so busted up."

He was flown by the Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter to Hawke's Bay Hospital, where he has remained for the past several weeks.

Although "still a bit busted up internally", Mr Gotty is now on the mend.

Symbols of what helped him pull through dot the walls of his hospital room - pictures of his family, the sea, and a birthday card to celebrate reaching his 53rd birthday on Tuesday.

"So far it's a slow climb," he said. "I survived an accident that many wouldn't have survived, or couldn't have survived."

The tiki necklace he wore at the time of the accident - a Christmas present from his partner's children - also survived.

"One of my nicknames is lucky Phil ... I call him my lucky tiki. We jumped together, he lost a little foot and a little arm so we both had an injury but we're still here today, lucky Phil and lucky Tiki."

Although he does not know when he will be discharged from hospital, Mr Gotty said he was "pretty excited to be alive".

"There's a lot of people I want to catch up with and a lot I want to do."

The experienced driver also said the accident would not deter him from going back to work.

Mantell-Harding owner Bill Harding declined to comment.

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