The Queenstown man who took the keys from a tourist he believes nearly caused a head-on collision said he made no apology for his actions and would do the same again to keep other motorists safe.
The man, who asked not to be named, was driving south behind another vehicle on the Lindis Pass on Sunday evening when he encountered the Kia Carnival rental car being driven in the opposite direction by the tourist driver, who is now facing police charges.
The man said the rental vehicle was performing a passing manoeuvre on a bend and was in the wrong lane, forcing the car in front of his to drive ''completely off the road'' to avoid a collision.
The tourist car then ''locked its brakes'', slid back across the centre line and narrowly missed the vehicle it was passing and the man's vehicle.
''It was just an absolute fluke that he didn't connect with anyone. If we had have been 5m up the road we wouldn't be having this conversation.''
The man had a background in motorsport and said he would ''like to think ... I know what I'm talking about ... it's just hard to put it into words just how close it was''.
The man did a U-turn and caught up with the vehicle. He said he flashed his lights, beeped his horn and gestured to the driver to pull over, but ''he had no intention of stopping''.
He then overtook the vehicle, slowed down and indicated, to get the other driver to pull in.
He said he asked the apologetic tourist driver to move his car off to the side of the road and told him: ''Look, you can't drive like that mate; you almost killed a carload of people''.
He reached through the open car window, removed the keys from the ignition and explained that once he was back in cellphone range he would call the police, who would come and talk to the driver.
Witness: Way it was handled was 'not appropriate'
While the man's actions were praised on social media yesterday, the tourist driver and another motorist who stopped to help the stranded group believe the situation was inappropriately handled.
Mason Brown and his family, visiting from the Gold Coast, were flagged down by the tourist driver.
No other traffic had stopped to help, it was raining and one of the rental car's electric windows was down, there were three young children and an elderly diabetic man among the group of seven and the wife of the driver was very distressed, Mr Brown said.
''They were visiting from Sydney so they weren't sure why the person had pulled them over and taken their key. They didn't know about not having cellphone coverage [in the Lindis], they didn't know where the nearest town was, so they were just really freaked out about what had happened.
''They didn't have any food or water in the car. They didn't know how long they were going to be there ... we gave them bottled water and some bananas and they were very appreciative of those.''
While the driver's decision to take the keys was ''obviously in the interest of safety'', it had created other hazards.
''Because of where it was, it was incredibly dangerous and stressful for that family and for other drivers. The car was off the road but it could have been more safely pulled off the road.''
Mr Brown believed taking the keys would have been acceptable in a less remote area.
''I've heard that people were hailing this person as a hero but ... I just think the way that it was handled was not particularly appropriate.''
Tourist: 'We were left stranded'
Speaking from Queenstown yesterday, the tourist driver, who declined to be named, said the incident was upsetting. "We were just driving [from Queenstown to Lake Tekapo] and all of a sudden someone came and ... blocked us and just ran to us and just pulled the key out of the car and ... we were stranded there without doing anything [wrong]," the man said.
The tourist, who held a full Australian driver's licence, and the man who took the keys, described by police as a local, reported the incident.
''There is no right for any other person to stop someone else's car with a family and just take the key and make them stranded on the road ... anything could have happened.''
But the driver who took the keys said: ''Would you rather have distressed kids sitting in the back of the car or dead kids splattered across the windscreen? That's how close it was.
''As far as I see it, I just took the ammunition out of the gun. A car's a weapon in the hands of an idiot like that.''
Police: Charges laid against tourist
Acting road policing manager Senior Sergeant Steve Larking said the rental was alleged to have unsafely overtaken a vehicle, causing two southbound vehicles to take evasive action. The vehicle had also been subject to an earlier complaint of slow driving on the Crown Range.
The tourist driver has been charged with careless use of a vehicle and will appear in the Alexandra District Court on January 28. His rental car contract was cancelled.
Police said a bus had picked up the tourist party and driven them back towards Tarras. They intercepted the bus and accompanied the tourist driver to retrieve his vehicle.
Mr Larking said that while members of the public might wish to take action to prevent unsafe driving, it was best to always contact police in the first instance, via *555 or 111.