The occupants of a car that demolished a concrete fence and ruptured a gas main at Mt Maunganui were lucky to be alive, a witness said.

Bruce Howie was hanging out his washing at 7.30am yesterday when he heard ''a heck of a bang'' and rushed across to the other side of his house in Oceanbeach Rd.

He saw a car had crashed into the fence, heard a loud hissing and saw the driver desperately trying to get the passenger out of the car.

''I tried to give him a bit of a hand,'' Howie said.


He said the passenger was in a lot of pain from leg and rib injuries and did not want to be moved. By then others had arrived and a strong smell of gas hung over the area.

A neighbour who lived behind Howie said he immediately realised everyone was in danger from the gas and told his family to ''go, go, go'' out of range of the gas and any possible explosion.

The neighbour, who only wanted to be known as Shannon, then joined the driver of the crashed car and another younger man in trying to shift the passenger.

''He was a massive man, a big fella, the three of us could not move him.''

He said the gas was hissing out and the driver was desperate to get his passenger out of the car. ''He was definitely scared.''

When the passenger appeared to become more aware of what was happening, the three men managed to shift him as much as they could and then waited for the Fire Service to arrive.

Shannon said they were not sure whether they had moved him far enough to be out of harm's way.

''We definitely got a fright knowing there was a broken gas main. Considering the heat and the car engine, it could have lit up something like that.''


When the car hit the fence, it snapped a gas upstand and meter behind the fence.

Shannon said the driver and his passenger were lucky. He noticed the passenger was wearing a high-vis vest.

It was the second crash in a year on the gentle bend in Oceanbeach Rd, a couple of hundred metres past the end of Marine Parade. The other crash involved a car hitting the power pole beside yesterday's crash scene.

The gas was being blown towards the beach and a person walking their dog said he could smell gas.

Shannon said the gas flowed for about an hour and was shut off by digging down to reach the valve on the other side of the road. Houses were tested for residual gas before the all-clear was given.

Howie said it would have been a big shock if the gas had exploded. ''They were really lucky.''


Before hearing the crash, he said he had not heard the sound of a speeding vehicle or a car under heavy braking.

Constable Luke Perrott of the Tauranga Police said the driver and passenger of the car were both from Tauranga. The car was being driven from the direction of the Mount and the passenger was taken to hospital.

There were no brake marks on the road and the impact damage suggested there was a bit of speed involved.

He confirmed the driver had jumped out of the car as soon as the crash happened and had gone around to get his passenger out.

With the gas blowing towards the beach, the houses in the immediate proximity of the leak were evacuated. Householders on the other side of the road were allowed to stay in their homes.

Both police and residents were told by the driver that he had fallen asleep.


The owner of the fence hit by the car was not at home. The car took out the corner of the wooden fence in front of Howie's home before crashing into the concrete fence.

Vector spokeswoman Murielle Baker said two houses were affected by the gas outage. By early evening yesterday, supplies had been restored to one residence and the contractor was working to resupply the other.