Fire crews find colleagues in crash

KAROLINE TUCKEY
Last updated 13:34 03/09/2014

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A fire crew attending a serious crash on SH1 in Te Horo discovered two of their own fire fighters trapped in the wreckage, and one remains in a critical condition. 

Otaki chief fire officer Ian King said a crew from his station were the first emergency services to reach the scene, and used the jaws of life to cut two of their own members from ''the wreckage'' of a van. 

The two-car crash, at about 5pm at the intersection with Te Hapua Rd, caused considerable delays to both north and southbound traffic on SH1. It involved a northbound van, towing a car on a trailer, and a southbound car. 

One of the firefighters involved was airlifted to Wellington Hospital with serious head and neck injuries and remained in critical condition this morning.

A Te Horo woman in her mid 40s from the south bound car was now in a stable condition. Police and fire fighters said the other fire fighter was also taken to Wellington hospital by ambulance.

Central district police communications manager Sara Stavropoulos said the Serious Crash Unit in Palmerston North was investigating. 

''Preliminary indications suggest the vehicle towing the trailer has crossed over into the southbound lane and collided with an oncoming vehicle,'' she said.

King said attending the incident had been distressing for the Otaki crew. ''It's our worst nightmare, going to an accident and finding out it's our own people.'' 

Otaki senior fire fighter John McMurchie who headed the first crew said fire fighters were able to speak to one of the two men while they were trapped, to reassure him. The other man was unable to respond. 

Another fire fighter said the Otaki team was particularly close knit, and from his own experience the incident would remain deeply traumatic for the firefighters for some time. However, the fire crews would be well supported, he said. 

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- Kapiti Observer

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