Trapped under a concrete slab and nearly drowning in a stream, a Havelock North farmer was able to send one-word text messages which led to his rescue.

Ken Miller, who is in his early 60s, was fixing a water pump in the Maraetotara Stream, near his Craggy Range Rd home, when he became pinned under a concrete slab yesterday.

Realising the life-threatening situation he was in, Mr Miller sent his friend Sandra Duthie brief texts that read "help", "in river" and "stuck".

Ms Duthie, who owns an education centre in Hastings, found Mr Miller "cold and in shock" with a "concrete lid" on his arm.


"He was jammed in there ... I was worried I was going to come here and find him drowned."

I was worried I was going to come here and find him drowned.
Sandra Duthie

She said the cellphone coverage was too poor for Mr Miller to make a call for help but he managed to send SOS text messages.

"It was only about every fourth text that he was able to get a message through because the service was only just good enough to get his one word texts out."

St John Hawke's Bay district operations manager Stephen Smith said when the ambulance responded Mr Miller was still trapped in the stream.

"By the time we got there he had been freed and we transported him to a medical centre in Hastings with a minor arm injury ... it could have been a whole different story."

Ms Duthie said her friend doesn't usually carry his mobile phone when working on Maraetuna Farm, near Havelock North, but fortunately changed his mind yesterday.

"It shows the benefits of taking a cellphone when you're working alone.

"If he didn't have a cellphone with him he would still be sitting there and might have lost his arm."

Mr Miller was taken to Hawke's Bay Hospital as a precautionary measure.