Colleen Donker was only centimetres away from being crushed in her vehicle when a rubbish truck slammed into a railway overbridge and rolled in central Whangārei.

It was one of three crashes within an hour that created traffic chaos and kept emergency services busy around Whangārei yesterday.

The Parakao farmer heard a bang and felt a jolt before she looked in the Toyota Land Cruiser's rear vision mirror and saw the truck, owned by Waste Management, on its side under the rail bridge on Rust Av about 1pm.

It was not until she stopped and jumped out that she noticed the extent of damage to the rear of her vehicle.

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The driver of this rubbish truck suffered a suspected hand fracture after crashing the truck's hoist into an overhead rail bridge. Photo / Tania Whyte
The driver of this rubbish truck suffered a suspected hand fracture after crashing the truck's hoist into an overhead rail bridge. Photo / Tania Whyte

Initial police investigations showed an Auckland-based truck driver, who was brought to Whangārei as a reliever, was on his first job when the incident happened.

The driver was following his GPS and heading towards the old library when the hoist for the rubbish bin clipped the overhead bridge.

Donker was heading into the opposite direction when the rolling truck caught the rear of her Land Cruiser, which was written off.

"I heard a bang and felt a jolt and looked in my side mirror and saw the truck on its side. I jumped out and said 'Praise the Lord'. At that stage, I wasn't even aware my vehicle had been damaged.

"It's not luck. It's the god that I believe protects us. If it was going to be my time, I would have been hit in the front and I'd have been taken out."

Colleen Donker's Toyota Land Cruiser is a write-off after a rubbish truck's hoist fell on it after hitting an overhead rail bridge. Photo / Tania Whyte
Colleen Donker's Toyota Land Cruiser is a write-off after a rubbish truck's hoist fell on it after hitting an overhead rail bridge. Photo / Tania Whyte

She was the sole occupant.

The male truck driver climbed out and was helped by a member of the public until St John paramedics arrived. He suffered a suspected fracture to his arm and was taken to Whangārei Hospital.

Anita Mauger, of Christchurch, had parked her car metres away from where the truck landed on its side and was paying for the parking when she heard a "massive bang".

"I thought there was an earthquake and turned around and saw the truck on its side. I then went to the front of the truck to check on the driver and by that time there were other people checking on him."

Sergeant Phil Halton, of the police commercial vehicle safety team, said investigations to determine how the out-of-town driver misjudged the height of the overhead bridge were continuing. The road reopened about 3.45pm.

Waste Management did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile State Highway 1, on a dangerous stretch of road south of Whangārei, was also blocked for two hours after a crash involving three cars just north of the intersection with Mangapai Rd.

Police say that about 1.30pm an unlicensed northbound driver and a southbound motorist collided head-on. The southbound vehicle then clipped a second southbound vehicle travelling behind.

State Highway 1 in Oakleigh was blocked for two hours following a three-car crash. Photo / Supplied
State Highway 1 in Oakleigh was blocked for two hours following a three-car crash. Photo / Supplied

The northbound driver was uninjured and the two southbound drivers were treated for minor injuries.

Police were able to open one lane about 2pm after heavy traffic started to build up and reopened the road fully around 3pm.

It was a lucky escape for three young Aucklanders after the car they were in rolled down a bank off Matapouri Rd and came to a stop up against a tōtara tree about 2pm yesterday.

Frances Morrison was a passenger in the car which was heading towards Tutukaka.

Frances Morrison (left) being comforted by her brother, Kent Morrison, after the car she was a passenger in went down a bank between Tutukaka and Ngunguru. Photo / Tania Whyte
Frances Morrison (left) being comforted by her brother, Kent Morrison, after the car she was a passenger in went down a bank between Tutukaka and Ngunguru. Photo / Tania Whyte

She said the driver spun out coming around the corner by the lookout and hit the bank on the left-hand side of the road. The car rolled as it went down the bank off the other side of the road, stopping on its side about five metres down.

"I can't believe that we came out not injured. It could have been way worse if the tree wasn't there."

The three people climbed out of the drivers window. Police said the driver of the vehicle was disqualified.

Additional reporting Danica MacLean