Jono Donker is lucky to be alive after the car he was travelling in flipped on to its roof on State Highway 1 about 1.5km north of Hikerenui.
Dazed but unscathed, he and another passenger climbed out of the overturned BMW sedan before fire crews arrived to cut out the driver, who was airlifted to Whangarei Hospital with head injuries after the crash at 3.20pm yesterday.
Hospital staff said the driver's injuries were still being assessed last night but he was in a stable condition.
That the passengers walked away from the wreck was "the luck of the draw", said Hikurangi fire chief Snow Buckton, who has worked on many fatal car accidents in 33 years as a volunteer fireman.
When the Northern Advocate arrived on the scene, the passengers were sitting on the roadside, but were soon up and walking around, seemingly recovered from the frightening crash.
Mr Donker, of Whangarei, said he thought the BMW sedan had a blowout on its journey from Kaikohe to Whangarei. He was in the front, his boss had been driving and there was another male in the back.
"I heard a bang, we went sideways and then we turned over," Mr Donker said.
The officer in charge at the scene, Sergeant Graeme Pugh, said early indications were that the southbound BMW had flipped after its driver lost control while overtaking two other cars.
He was waiting for police Serious Crash Unit officers to arrive from Whangarei to assess the accident scene.
The Hikurangi Volunteer Fire Brigade attended the crash, as did the Towai Rural Fire Party and a Whangarei Fire Brigade rescue tender.
Mr Buckton said a St John Ambulance crew, which was first to arrive, had the injured driver "pretty well sorted" when the Hikurangi appliance got there.
Firefighters stabilised the overturned car before cutting the driver's side so the injured man could be easily removed.
They also stopped traffic to ensure the safety of emergency crews and provide space on the road for the Northland Electricity rescue helicopter to land.
Traffic backed up for more than a kilometre either side of the scene for about an hour.