A Whangārei woman's voice trembled as she described a trapped driver in a wrecked car begging for his unconscious friend to get off him.
Details are emerging of those who raced to help after a horror car crash in Maunu this morning left one dead and two other men in Whangārei Hospital's intensive care unit in a serious but stable condition.
The exact circumstances of the crash - which occurred 400m from the hospital's A&E - are still being investigated by police.
The sound of a speeding vehicle jolted a Maunu Rd resident awake around 2am. Seconds later screeching brakes followed by a powerful bang sent the woman, a hospital worker who did not want to be named, rushing from her bed to investigate.
She saw smoke coming from the car's completely "smashed in" front and debris littered the street underneath the vehicle, which came to stop in front of a driveway.
"I went to it straight away. I was trying to see if they were breathing, no one was responding."
The woman could hear one of the passengers gasp for air. And another occupant made a slight movement of their arm.
"To witness it first hand was something else. It is really traumatising and knowing what to do was so hard. I had just done my CPR training a few weeks ago but it was still so scary."
Minutes after the accident happened an experienced nurse and volunteer ambulance officer driving home from work, parked up and took charge of the scene until emergency services arrived shortly afterwards.
Prepared with a high-vis vest, first aid kit and fire extinguisher, the nurse directed a small group of road users and residents who had spilled from their homes disturbed by the noises.
They were able to remove the backseat passenger from the smoking car and the nurse performed CPR on him until two ambulances and a rapid response unit arrived and took over.
While this was going on the woman held the hand of the driver, trapped by the front of the distorted vehicle, as he begged for his unconscious passenger breathing hard to get off him.
She said "...he was saying 'get me out of here'." She struggled for words as she recalled the impact the scene had on her: "It was just...so scary."
The woman was unable to attend work today due to being so shaken up by the accident. She described difficulties sleeping and resting because of flashbacks to this morning. Both her workplace and the police have offered her support.
This morning's accident was the second road fatality in the region in the past week. A 31-year-old suffered fatal injuries when she was thrown from the vehicle when it left the road and hit a bank on State Highway 1 near Te Kao, on the Aupouri Peninsula, on Thursday evening.
While the Coroner would make the final determination, police suspected alcohol was a factor and that the driver was not wearing a seatbelt.
The head of Northland road policing, Senior Sergeant Steve Dickson, said Northland has experienced too many preventable road fatalities involving alcohol, not wearing seatbelts, distracted drivers, and speed.
"What we want is for people driving on our roads to head home safely and to do that people in the community need to do the right things on the roads."
The key message was personal responsibility behind the wheel.
"Be well rested, don't speed, and do not drive affected by drugs or alcohol."
And always wear your seatbelt, Dickson said.
The latest fatalities have increased the Northland road toll this year to 26.