A three-year-old Invercargill boy was airlifted to hospital after being hit by a car in Oamaru yesterday afternoon.

The incident happened in the access-way between Eden and Coquet Sts, near Peter Pan Bakery, about 3pm.

Sergeant Blair Wilkinson, of Oamaru, said the boy was in a stable condition in Dunedin Hospital last night.

Police had spoken to the driver and a number of witnesses and inquiries were continuing, Sgt Wilkinson said.

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A witness described seeing a car's brake lights come on suddenly, followed by a "sickening scream''.

"I was just talking on my phone and I saw the brake lights of a vehicle come on and then I just heard an almighty scream,'' the witness said.

"I did a double take and I looked and I could just make out a dark form under the car.

"I hung up and dialled 111 and started running down towards it.''

The child did not have long to wait for treatment - the incident had occurred just metres from the Oamaru St John station.

"Before I'd given too many details [to 111] the ambulance was already there,'' he said.

The access way was busy at the time of the incident, the witness said, and about 10 people rushed to the child's aid.