Owen Lloyd felt the steady pulse of the young, unconscious driver in his crumpled blue Audi, and thought he would be okay. He left for just minutes to move his car for emergency services and came back to find the man's pulse had stopped.
The driver was jammed between the seat and steering wheel after a head-on collision with a bus in the suburb of Meadowbank, east Auckland, and Lloyd tried desperately to reach through to unbuckle him.
"I just thought if I could get him in a position where I could perform CPR on him he might survive until the ambulance arrived," Lloyd, a 25-year-old engineering student, said.
"But he was stuck, and he was gone, and I just thought, 'There is nothing I can do'."
Senior Sergeant Matt Rogers said it appeared the driver, a male in his late 20s, had been speeding down the narrow suburban Gowing Dr with a male passenger.
It is believed the car crossed the centre line as it came around a blind corner, crashing head-on with a bus on its regular route about 11.30am yesterday.
"It is tragic. If he had not been speeding he'd be off having a beer with his mates right now," Rogers said.
Nine people were injured in the crash, including five children. Five people were taken from the crash scene to Auckland City Hospital.
Lloyd lives on Gowing Drive. His flatmates heard the "big bang" of the crash, and raced out to the street to see what had happened.
"They came and got me, and I ran down the drive in bare feet.
"The whole front of the car was squashed, but the driver's side even more."
The car was smoking and soon caught fire. The injured bus driver grabbed the fire extinguisher onboard the bus and put out the fire, Lloyd said, while injured people were hobbling out of the bus.
"A woman came out holding a baby, they were all looking shocked."
After the fire was out Lloyd went first to the car passenger.
"I checked his pulse. He was unconscious but groaning and had a stable pulse. He seemed okay.
"Then I went to the driver. I checked his pulse and it was like adrenaline, just going boom, boom, but stable."
Lloyd had to shift his car for emergency services that were on their way. Moments later he returned to the driver.
"I ran back and checked him straight away, but this time there was no pulse. I was like, 'Oh crap, oh crap'.
"I ripped open the door but realised his seatbelt was on and he was squished into the steering wheel. There was no way to reach through and unbuckle him.
"I wanted to get him free so I could perform CPR until the ambulance arrived, but he was stuck, there was nothing I could do."
At that stage they could hear sirens on their way, and soon after police, fire trucks and ambulances arrived.
"They couldn't do anything either because he was stuck. He was gone."
Eventually firefighters freed the young man's body from the wreckage using the jaws of life.
Lloyd said other neighbours and a passing motorist came to the aid of the passenger.
"They got him out of the car. He was on his feet originally, but a bit dopey."
The man, in his late 20s, was taken to Auckland City Hospital in a serious condition.
Lloyd had done a first aid course "a while ago", but said he mostly acted on instinct.
"I have never seen anything like that before. But if someone is in trouble, you try and help them out."
Lloyd's fellow neighbours assisted passengers on the bus.
Wespac Rescue Helicopter intensive care paramedic Chris Deacon said the children, aged between about 2 and 7, were travelling on the bus during a "day out" with an adult who was mum to three and looking after the other two.
Deacon said the mum was injured in the crash as she tried to protect the children.
"She protected the baby with her own arm, so she had some quite bad bruising."
One child on the bus was sent to hospital to be assessed, Deacon said.
"[The child] was sucking on an ice-block so looked reasonably content, but was quiet, and had gone skidding along the floor of the bus, so went to hospital to be checked."
Deacon said at least one adult bus passenger likely suffered a fracture — to an ankle — but other bus passengers escaped with bumps and bruises.
The car passenger told Deacon he was from Auckland but didn't say what his relationship was to the driver of the car.
"I think he was unaware that his mate was dead."
Nearby resident Geoff Parmenter offered his covered driveway as a temporary relief shelter to the injured.
"We were just keen to help out. We got some chairs out, water, ice packs and gave the young children some ice-blocks. They were all pretty rattled."
Deb Hollier and her husband, Mike, helped gather the children and the injured on to their neighbour's driveway where they helped look after them.
"The kids were all very upset, we cuddled and comforted them."
She and her husband had lived at their Gowing Drive address for about 24 years and had seen several serious accidents in the same area.
"The issues are speed, and how narrow the road is. Cars come speeding around the corner, and with cars parked on both sides of the road - especially on weekends - it is very narrow."
Hollier said there should be speed bumps and potentially yellow lines on one side of the road.
The bus driver was "pretty shaken up", but had been given support by his company Go Bus, Rogers said. Support was also being offered to the passengers.
The serious crash unit had been notified.
According to Auckland Transport's website bus No 782 is the only bus that travels along the section of Gowing Drive where the crash occurred.
The Meadowbank crash was one of several on what was a grisly Saturday on New Zealand roads.
In Warkworth one person was critically injured, and four more moderately injured, after a crash between a car and a campervan at the intersection of Sandspit Rd and Sharp Rd at about 1.50pm.
A man was in a critical condition after an incident involving a car and a bike in Ōhope about noon yesterday.