OPINION: Everybody has experiences that they recall with a sense of dread, not so much because of what happened, but because of what might have happened if not for sheer luck.
I have one of those anxious moments whenever I think about October 16, 2010.
It was a gorgeous mid-spring Hawke's Bay day, and I was driving my wife and parents to a family lunch.
As we headed along Lawn Rd, near Clive, a light truck immediately in front of us indicated it was turning across the road.
Instinctively, I braked and, checking my wing mirror, saw a white car looming as it passed the traffic strung out along the road behind.
There could be only one outcome.
In the split second that followed, I managed to pull on to the grass verge just as the car smashed into the truck, metres ahead.
The car skidded into a shallow ditch and caught fire; the truck was flipped into the air, landing in front of us and erupting into flames.
Like most people, I had always liked to think I would react without hesitation in such a situation. But the shock of witnessing something that horrific at such close proximity was paralysing.
The truth is I honestly don't know what I would have done if I hadn't seen Colin Wiggins running towards the car.
Fear, I guess, doesn't like company.
I still can't believe that nobody was killed that day, especially in the car. The force with which it hit the truck seemed impossible to survive.
But the thing that really gives me that sense of dread was the thought that had I not spotted the car in my wing mirror - an image fused into my brain like a photograph - and pulled over, we would have been about where the truck hit the tarmac.
Had it landed on top of us, we wouldn't have had a chance. I shudder whenever I think of what might have happened.
It was an awful lesson in how easily a casual trip to a family lunch or a kind errand to deliver firewood to a friend, as Bill Stirling was doing, can end in tragedy.
I hope every driver remembers the need to take care on the roads whenever they get behind the wheel, especially with the holiday season just around the corner.
A few weeks after the crash, I received a lovely letter from Mr Stirling's whanau, which included a Lotto ticket.
I didn't win anything, but I didn't mind. I reckon we all had more than our share of luck several Saturdays before.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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