Hawke's Bay farming leader Will Foley was one of many motorists amazed anyone had survived the truck crash which almost stopped him from getting to a stock sale in Feilding.

The Federated Farmers provincial president was travelling through the Manawatu Gorge when he came across a lone police patrol at the gaping 10m hole in a Manawatu Gorge barrier.

Realising other emergency services were about to arrive he continued the trip and looked back soon afterwards to see the wreckage of a truck, trailer and shipping container which had plunged about 50m from the highway to the river below.

"All I could see was the chassis submerged upside down in the water," he said.


"Then I saw was a guy in a fluro jacket standing on the truck. It's a long way down. It's at least 50m if not more. I can't believe anyone survived."

Mr Foley told Hawke's Bay Today he resumed the trip expecting there would have been at least one fatality, and was surprised to learn there had been any survivors - police later praising the work of two officers and a fireman in rescuing the two men, and then joined them in hospital.

The rescuers were said to be suffering from hypothermia, after reaching the men and pulling them from the crumpled cab.

The white b-train truck with two trailers was carrying two containers of milk powder.

The Fire Service was alerted at 10.30am and Manawatu area manager Mitchell Brown said it appeared a police officer had been able to assist the two men from the cab of the truck. Three ambulances were on scene at 10.44am and the Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter battled rain and strong winds to winch a St John advanced paramedic to the wreckage to help.

One person was winched from on top of the truck cab while the second was helped from near the truck, said the Philips Search and Rescue Trust.

While Mr Foley and some other motorists were able to complete their trip through the notorious stretch of State Highway 3, the road was soon closed to all traffic with detours through the Saddle and the Pahiatua Track.