Police have defended a tourist driver who was punched in the face yesterday after being pulled over by another motorist, one of three tourist-driver incidents on the West Coast.
The Greymouth assault took place not long before a car with four Chinese tourists plunged 20m into the river at Whataroa, and some Germans ran off the road near Waiuta.
Yesterday's assault occurred when a motorist signalled for the tourist driver in Greymouth to pull over, then punched him in the face and removed the keys from his car.
Police said the tourist had been driving a white Toyota rental car on Main South Road about 11.40am when the motorist in a silver sedan signalled for him to stop, then attacked him.
The victim suffered bruising to his eye, and he and his female passenger were left shaken.
Head of road policing, Assistant Commissioner Dave Cliff, defended the tourist driver's actions, and said yesterday's incident was a "nasty assault" committed for no reason at all.
The tourist had simply moved to the right of the road and then back to the left on the urban street. "It was a really innocuous incident in terms of driving that was not unsafe...There was nothing in terms of dangerous driving," Mr Cliff said.
Police were today unable to provide any updates on whether they had captured the assailant, after being called out to an unrelated incident at 4am.
Shortly after the incident, four Chinese tourists made a lucky escape when their rented four-wheel-drive came off a gravel road near Whataroa and plunged into the river. The tourists were forced to swim for their lives to escape the almost submerged vehicle.
Franz Josef police constable Bill Parker said the tourists, who were booked into accommodation near Franz Josef Glacier, had gone down the road to have a look around, and were on their way back to Franz Josef when the accident happened.
He said the car remained in the river, as it was swept into a deeper hole, and it would have been too dangerous to get it out.
Mr Parker said that all four occupants of the vehicle escaped without serious injury, though one woman had some glass in her arm, as well as gravel rash.
"They are still on holiday and they are trying to enjoy it, and I am keeping them informed of what's happening with their vehicle."
About the same time, a German tourist suffered a badly broken leg after a vehicle crashed on the Waiuta road shortly after noon yesterday.
The Ikamatua Volunteer Fire Brigade was called to the crash scene, about halfway between Blackwater and the abandoned town of Waiuta, at about 12.20pm.
Ikamatua deputy fire chief Darryl Lawson said the car with its three German tourist occupants had landed upside-down in Blackwater Creek below the narrow gravel road. Initially the use of lines rescue equipment was considered, but in the event three people were brought out by foot, Mr Lawson said.
"Access was difficult."
Brigade members had to carry the car's occupants up the creek and on to the road so they could be collected by rescue helicopter, Mr Lawson said.
Angus Taylor , New Zealand Coal and Carbon Ltd (NZCC) Rescue Helicopter pilot, said the tourist suffered a broken femur, as well as a compound fracture to the lower leg, and was taken to Christchurch hospital.
The Greymouth incident comes after new figures this week showed the West Coast had the worst record in the country for serious road incidents involving foreign drivers in the past five years. 37 per cent of crashes between 2009 and 2013 in the region involved foreign drivers.
Tony Kokshoorn, Grey District Mayor, said there was a "definite issue" with tourists driving on the wrong side of the road, and he had seen three such incidents in the recent past.
However, he was concerned "extremist behaviour" from New Zealand drivers was becoming a trend, and said the actions of the man involved in yesterday's incident were "disgraceful" and "inappropriate".
Eight people have died in tourist crashes in the past fortnight -- and the number of incidents climbed again yesterday.