A senior St John manager says the response to Saturday's bus crash on the Tūroa Mountain Road shows the resilience of communities such as Ohakune.

Palmerston North-based St John district operations manager Steve Yanko said following the initial flood of 111 calls, ski patrollers and medical staff from Tūroa Skifield went down to help at the crash, while St John crews from Ohakune, Waiouru and Taihape were mobilised to head up to it.

Rescue helicopters were also quickly deployed, with five sent to assist.

Yanko said from the initial information it was clear that there was a large number of people on the bus and a range of injuries from very serious, to moderate and minor injuries.


One senior St John manager flew into the scene by helicopter and took over the management of the scene.

Yanko said one job was to get the 20 or so less-seriously injured people away from the crash site quickly.

"The idea is to get people away from the scene and there's a lot of emotion, so the walking wounded we had transported by ambulance and van down to Ohakune Ambulance Station to set up a secondary triage site.

"We had a manager on holiday in the area and he went around there and ran the operation and some of the medical staff came and helped, it worked out well."

The crash closed the road for several hours. Photo /Supplied
The crash closed the road for several hours. Photo /Supplied

Doctors skiing on the mountain also heard about the crash and arrived to help, he said.

"We had so many medical staff there that we had more than we needed and in one case we had two or three staff looking after one patient which in a mass-casualty incident is pretty rare.

"It was mainly medical staff that were skiing and the ski patrol people that helped and someone contacted Defence [NZ Defence Force] and we got a couple of medics from Waiouru so it was an example of where everyone kicked in and worked together and supported us, it was a credit to everyone."

Meanwhile, the young female who later died was flown to Waikato Hospital with two intensive care paramedics looking after her, and other helicopters and road ambulances transporting people to various hospitals, including Waikato, Wellington, Palmerston North, Taupō and Taumarunui.


All the injured people were treated where necessary and transported from the crash scene within two and a half hours, Yanko said.

"We were quite pleased overall with the response and we'll be debriefing it and learn where we can make improvements for the future.

"It [Ohakune] is a resilient community and it's got a lot of good people there, and this crash highlighted that."

A graphic on the Philips Search & Rescue Trust's Facebook page showed that all of its five helicopters were out on jobs on Saturday, including its Taupō and Rotorua-based machines.

While the Taupō and Palmerston North helicopters flew to the Tūroa bus crash, the Rotorua and Hamilton helicopters were tasked to other jobs and the Tauranga helicopter was called into the Central Plateau to provide cover.

Rescue helicopters from Wellington, New Plymouth and Hawke's Bay also attended the crash.