Woman saw friend fly 'head first' through bus window

By Simon O'Rourke

Thames Coast Garden Club treasurer Heather Glauser says she would be dead today if it were not for a lap seatbelt fitted to the front aisle-seat of a bus that collided with a truck on Monday.

Her companion, sitting to her left, was not wearing a seat belt because there were none fitted for window seats.

That woman was flung from her seat across the width of the bus and flew "head first" out the side window directly behind the driver's seat, Mrs Glauser said.

She was thrown free from the bus as it spun 180 degrees immediately after impact. The crash occurred on State Highway 2 at Maramarua on Monday afternoon.

Mrs Glauser said she was relieved to hear her friend was going to be discharged from Middlemore Hospital yesterday, with the 13 other gardening club members who were also taken to hospital.

But the driver, Dave Porter of Ngatea, remains in Middlemore in a serious but stable condition with a broken arm and suspected spinal injuries. He was trapped in the bus after impact.

His daughter-in-law would not comment yesterday.

Mrs Glauser said she had "absolutely no doubt" the wearing of the seatbelt had saved her life.

"I would have gone straight through the windscreen when we hit that truck if I didn't have it on. I've got bruising like you wouldn't believe across the top of my thighs and lower abdomen, but without that I'd be dead."

All the women lucky enough to take an aisle seat had been wearing a belt, Mrs Glauser said.

She saw a car or cars ahead braking seconds before the crash. The bus driver applied his brakes heavily and the vehicle slewed to the right as the brakes continued to be pressed.

Mrs Glauser said the driver had not collapsed. He was fully aware of what was happening and the vehicle simply either skidded or locked up.

After the crash another gardening club member, Carol Webb, 62, came to to find herself on the other side of the bus from where she was seated.

Yesterday she was nursing a black eye, a bang to her head and severe bruising to her leg and arm.

"I don't know what happened and didn't see anything.

"I just heard a loud screech and screaming and a bang, and I was out cold. It all happened so quickly.

"I was about three seats down from the front, and went from the left hand side of the bus to the right hand side, and nearly went through the window."

Somebody ended up beneath her, and another woman above her was left hanging from her legs out of a broken window.

"It was devastating, such a shock, and we've just got to put it behind us. It's all going to be okay."

All women on board were aged between 58 and 70, and came from various parts of the Thames coast from Waiomu and Te Puru to Thames.

The club had gone on several trips to Auckland and everyone knew how dangerous the strip of road around Maramarua and Mangatawhiri was, Mrs Webb said.

The crash was frightening for all involved, after what had been a beautiful day out, admiring gardens in Mt Eden and shopping in Mangere.

Police confirmed yesterday that the southbound bus had braked hard moments before colliding with the northbound truck.

The bus veered across the centre line, hitting the truck and trailer about 4pm near the Red Fox Tavern.

Seventeen people were injured, including both drivers and 15 passengers.

The drivers and two passengers were airlifted to Auckland City Hospital with moderate but not life-threatening injuries.

Ten passengers were taken by ambulance to Middlemore and four to Thames Hospital.

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