A tourist was airlifted to hospital yesterday evening after his rental van crashed and rolled on to its roof near Charleston, blocking State Highway 6 for about two hours.

Westport Volunteer Fire Brigade fire chief Allan Kennedy said the Asian driver of the Jucy campervan rolled the vehicle between Virgin Flat and the Little Totara River about 5.30pm.

The occupants had arrived from Australia earlier in the day.

It took more than an hour to free the driver, who was pinned in the car below the knee.


Paramedics stabilised the patient while fire officers worked to free him from the wreckage.

The front seat passenger, the driver's girlfriend, was partially thrown from the vehicle on impact, and was lying under it in the bonnet area. Mr Kennedy said they were able to slide her out from underneath the vehicle. A rear seat passenger was examined at the scene and was uninjured.

The Westpac Rescue Helicopter from Christchurch and the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter responded, taking the driver to Greymouth Hospital, where he was held overnight, while the other trapped passenger was airlifted to Christchurch Hospital with suspected spinal injuries.

Mr Kennedy said the driver was "in a pretty bad way".

Greymouth police senior sergeant David Cross said that fatigue was thought to be behind the crash.

"It's a timely reminder that fatigue is almost as dangerous as drink-driving when it comes to concentration and decision making when driving. Take regular breaks, drink water and if you're tired, stop, before you drop and roll," Mr Cross said.

- Greymouth Star