A search operation was mounted last night after people were thought missing in a Christchurch river from the wreck of a smashed vehicle.

Emergency services were called to a horrific accident in Radcliffe Rd at 10.35pm where a car had disintegrated in two after striking a bridge and had come to rest at the edge of the Styx River.

A passenger was trapped in the mangled wreck and needed to be cut out by firefighters.

Police southern district command centre senior sergeant Vaughan Lapslie said it was initially feared two people were missing in the river.


A search was mounted looking for the phantom passengers.

"The driver had just gone through a heck of a thing and thought he had two passengers with him. It turns out he had dropped them off earlier," he said.

He said given the extent of the smash all inside were "very, very lucky" to have survived.

A Fire Service spokesman said a passenger was cut out of the wrecked vehicle and the driver was one of those feared in the river.

Firefighters searched for an hour for others who might have been in the car.

"Our crews were there for about an hour after the extrication was complete."

The driver was found and it was established there were no other people in the car, he said.