Two men dragged an injured forestry worker from his car as it burst into flames after crashing into wandering livestock on a Far North rural road.
Police said if it hadn't been for the two local men who heard the screeching of tyres, a loud bang then revving of a motor and went to investigate, the injured man would have perished in the extensively damaged car.
Emergency services were called to the crash on Oruru Rd near Peria, 15km south of Taipa, at 6.15am on Saturday after the car had hit a cattle beast.
The 26-year-old man was flown by helicopter to Auckland with serious head injuries and after two days in the Intensive Care Unit was yesterday moved to a ward.
It was one of three crashes involving stock that Northland police were called to over the weekend which has drawn a warning from police for drivers to be extra vigilant during the dark winter months and for stock owners to make sure fences bordering roads were secure.
Mangonui Constable Tim Murdock was called to two of the crashes including the most serious at Peria.
He said it was dark as the forestry worker drove to work and it would have been very difficult to see the black coloured three-year-old steer. Two men from separate nearby houses came to investigate and as they assessed the man, who was semi-coherent, the car ignited.
He was dragged from the flaming wreck and put into the backseat of another car until ambulance staff arrived to treat him.
"He is very lucky he was pulled out and lucky he wasn't trapped because the roof of the car was caved in," Mr Murdock said.
"If it hadn't been for those two guys this could have easily been a tragedy." It appeared the steer had jumped out of the paddock. The animal died on impact.
Mr Murdock was also called to a crash on Friday when a 56-year-old woman struck a brown coloured horse wandering on State Highway 10 between Conaglen and Taupo Bay Rd, about 6.15pm. She suffered minor injuries but the windscreen of the car was smashed by the horse that escaped from cattle yards and was put down by a neighbouring farmer.
In the third crash two cars hit a cattle beast on State Highway 1 at Maungamuka about 6.30pm on Saturday. No one was injured but the beast died.
Northland police head of traffic inspector Murray Hodson said the impact of hitting a cow or horse was like hitting a brick wall. He said drivers needed to be more aware with the long dark days of winter and reduced visibility.
Farmers had a responsibility to ensure their boundary fences on roads were secure.
"In an animal's pursuit to look for feed in winter they can knock over vulnerable fences or push through gaps in a fence line."
He said drivers should report wandering stock immediately on *555.