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Kelly Ralph's 60th birthday started with a bang when she smashed into a herd of cows on her drive to work.
The mother of three has been left with a nasty cut to her head and her Toyota Corolla stationwagon was written off - but she swears she is lucky to be alive.
Ralph, who works in Ngarua, north of Matamata, was driving to work along State Highway 27 about 5.20am on Monday when she came face to face with the wandering stock.
She had left her home in Morrinsville a short time earlier and remembers negotiating a couple of corners on the familiar road before she came to a thumping halt.
It felt as though she had hit a rock, she said.
It was dark outside and she did not see the cows.
"My car didn't spin. I didn't brake.
"I had no time - I was doing 100kmh on the highway," Ralph said.
At least one of the beasts tumbled over the bonnet and windscreen of the vehicle, crumpling the roof, she said.
"I felt a stab.
"It was as though I had been knifed in the head."
Fearful the engine would burst into flames, she said she tried to kick the driver's door open.
But it was too mangled by the force of the crash.
Eventually she managed to free herself through the passenger side door.
Further down the road, she said she noticed two or three truck drivers and staggered towards them with her head a bloodied mess.
One of them came to her assistance and called emergency services, which arrived a short time later.
Police identified the farmer whose stock was involved but exactly how the stock got free is still unclear.
Sergeant Dean Kaio, of Morrinsville police, said it was unlikely any charges would result. Loose stock was not a crime, he said, and nothing pointed to negligence on the farmer's part.
"At this stage it looks like they [the cows] have come through a gate but whether or not that was left open, or whether they have managed to get it open, we're not quite sure."
The Matamata-Piako District Council had approached the farmer and advised him of the responsibilities he had for his stock, Kaio said.
But Ralph said she was not impressed with the farmer and she felt the incident had not been taken as seriously as it should have been.
"I'm trying to educate people about how serious this really is.
"I could have died in this car."
She said farmers needed to be aware that their stock could be a real danger to the public.
- Waikato Times