A hero truck-driving pair believed they had just watched a young boy fall to his death after he tumbled out of a moving car at speeds of up to 85km/h.
Ten-year-old Ryan Farelly had been trying to stop his diabetic nana Kathie's car yesterday morning after she slipped into a semi-conscious state while driving along the Waikato Expressway.
Stephen Mitchell - a senior driver trainer with Axiom - had noticed the car veering left and right between Meremere and Mercer as the truck he was a passenger in closed up from behind.
"I've seen lots of things in my life, but it's the first time I've ever seen someone bounce on the road like that kid and survive," he told the Herald.
"My first thought was, he's a goner at that sort of speed. He was very lucky he didn't hit the ground with his head."
Amazingly, Ryan ended up with only bruises and scrapes and has since been praised by police for his efforts to try to bring the car to a halt.
Yet after he tumbled out nana Kathie, suffering from a medical condition, continued down the expressway.
Following behind, Mitchell and the truck's driver, Gene Browne, director of Driving and Technical Training Services, decided they had to do something.
The pair used the right-hand lane to motor past Kathie before pulling in front of her and slowing the truck down.
This led Kathie to slow the car down behind them and come to a halt. Mitchell and Browne jumped out and rushed to her.
"She still kept on trying to drive. She drove into the back of the truck, tapping the bumper a couple of times," Mitchell said.
So the two men pulled the handbrake and grabbed the keys from the ignition.
Kathie was staring vacantly through the windscreen.
"I was saying to her, 'Do you realise your kid has just gone out the back door?'"
"Normally if a person's grandchild had just flown out of the car, they would be hysterical."
"She didn't do anything – when I say nothing, she didn't blink, she didn't say anything – so I just took over and put the car into park."
Mitchell said it was lucky he and Browne had been the ones to come up behind Kathie.
Having spent years teaching truckies how to drive, he quickly noticed the car driving erratically.
He thought the driver was drunk but then noticed Ryan leaning out the back window waving at them.
Mitchell at first waved back as if to say, "Sit back down and put your seatbelt on."
The car then slowed in front of the truck as Ryan attempted to bring into a halt by putting his foot on the brakes.
However, Browne said neither he nor Mitchell knew what was going on and instead thought those in the car were drunk or behaving like idiots.
It was only when the car sped back up that they saw Ryan open the lefthand side back door. He appeared to reach for the ground like he was trying to slide out before hitting the tarmac and being sent into a tumble.
"We were an 11-tonne truck ... but I'm kind of lucky because I've ridden bikes and my reactions were, I looked in my mirror and saw nothing to the right and then swerved so he didn't go under our wheels," Browne said.
He said Kathie's car was travelling at speeds up to 85km/h and it was lucky they didn't drive over the top of Ryan.
Despite the horror at seeing Ryan fall out, Mitchell said he and Browne didn't panic.
"It wasn't a panic situation, we thought it through clearly what we had to do, and luckily we did.
"If we hadn't spotted this, she could have taken another car out, she could have seriously killed herself or the boy, or killed somebody else."
Mitchell and Browne managed to stop Kathie's car between about 400m and 500m past the point where Ryan had fallen out.
Mitchell didn't know why Kathie in her unresponsive state had been able to slow the car once the truck was blocking her way, but thought it may have been an instinctive or reflexive action.
A van then picked Ryan up and brought him to where Mitchell and Browne had halted Kathie's car. An ambulance that happened to be passing by with a patient in the back saw the incident and stopped before providing treatment to Ryan and Kathie.
Browne said he saw Ryan's knees badly cut up.
Counties Manukau police earlier praised Ryan for his efforts to try to stop the car.
They said he stepped over the car's centre console and put his foot on the brake but couldn't bring the car to a halt because Kathie's foot remained on the accelerator as the car drifted toward the crash barrier - and the Waikato River.
Kathie described Ryan as "a very special little boy" and praised his "quick thinking".
"He looks after me, he's always done," she said.
The pair have a close relationship, with Ryan visiting every second weekend, Kathie said.
Ryan told Newstalk ZB his grandmother was diabetic and her blood sugar levels had become low. He gave her some pretzels but that didn't revive her and she fell into a faint condition.
Mitchell hoped Kathie was checked out because as a truck driver trainer he said it was important all motorists were medically fit to drive.
Ryan said he ended up with grazes on his knees, elbows, hands and shoulders but was feeling good.
As a defensive driving instructor, Browne urged parents to have a discussion with kids about what to do in an emergency on the roads because people often didn't know what to do.
"Put a car in neutral, pull on the handbrake to slow it and then hold on to the steering wheel - it's something really simple," he said.
"Ryan's decision-making was that he needed to get out of the car, but he didn't comprehend that getting out at 85km/h on a motorway is going to have consequences - he was really lucky."