Truck lands near swimmers

By Katee Shanks, Gary Hamilton-Irvine

Regional emergency services were kept busy with two separate incidents yesterday.

In the Eastern Bay of Plenty, the driver of an articulated truck and trailer unit crashed through a barrier arm in the Waimana Gorge about 20km southeast of Whakatane and came to rest in water only 50m away from swimming children.

While in Rotorua, police and ambulance were called to Tumunui Rd off State Highway 5 yesterday afternoon, when a tourist had crossed the centre line, crashing head-on with an oncoming car.

Eastern Bay emergency services from Taneatua, Whakatane and Opotiki were called to a crash about 2.30pm yesterday after a panicked 111 call.

It appeared the driver of a truck and trailer laden with apples failed to take a right-hand bend and crashed through a barrier arm, road signs and trees before the truck came to rest on its side in the Waimana River.

Only metres away at least 20 people were relaxing at Wardlaw Glade, a popular swimming hole for Waimana and Taneatua locals.

Members of the Bryant family were celebrating a friend's 11th birthday beside the river, when the truck crashed.

Sixteen-year-old Talei Bryant was standing on a rock about to jump into the river when she heard the screeching of tyres.

"The noise seemed to go on for ages before the crashing and banging started as the truck went through the barrier and came down the hill," Talei said.

"I jumped in the water and swam over to the truck.

"The driver, who was covered in blood and quite drowsy, was already climbing out through the window of his cab."

She said he climbed up the bank and sat on the roadside. Apples were strewn all over the bank.

"There were quite a few people asking him if he was all right but he didn't really seem to be responding."

Talei's mother, Ana had a few anxious moments before arriving at the scene.

"I was at home bottling peaches when a woman arrived asking to use the phone as there had been a crash by the swimming hole," Mrs Bryant said. "I was silently pleading with her to hurry up and make the call so I could get down there and see if my kids were okay."

Another witness to the accident, who wanted to be known only as Ana, said she knew the truck was going to crash quite some time before it did.

"He [the driver] was skidding for ages before he went over," Ana said.

The man was taken to Whakatane Hospital by ambulance.

The road was down to one lane while emergency services waited for a crane to take the truck from the river.

Police are yet to determine the cause of the crash.

Meanwhile 10km south of Rotorua on Tumunui Rd six people were involved in a crash after a tourist drove on the wrong side of the road, police said.

Rotorua police Constable Brodie Fowler said the crash happened about 2.50pm, and those invovled were "very lucky" not to have any serious injuries.

The tourist was taken to hospital by ambulance, as a precaution, with cuts to the foot.

The five other people, including one passenger with the tourist, walked away without injuries.

The road was closed for about one hour as two tow trucks were called to take the vehicles away.

When The Daily Post arrived yesterday there was glass scattered across the road and one car had spun 90 degrees on to the centre line.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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