Pair rescued from crashed ute beneath river bridge in Upper Hutt
A man and a woman rescued from a ute that crashed into the surging Hutt River overnight were believed to have been drinking before the accident.
Police were called just after 9pm after a vehicle became stuck in the river under Totara Park Bridge.
By the time emergency services arrived, the two occupants of the vehicle had climbed from inside the vehicle onto the roof, as the river's waters rose.
The Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt Civil Defence Rescue Teams were called in, along with the police dive squad, as firefighters on the bridge closed the road and sent a rescue line down.
With its occupants' help, the ute was tied to the bridge's handrail as emergency services worked out how best to rescue the pair, Rimutaka station officer Erroll Tapiki said at the scene.
"It's the only thing that actually stopped it from floating [away]," he said.
The rescuers then lowered a rope towards the white double-cab vehicle, with lifejackets for the pair, who needed to jump into the water before being pulled to safety.
The woman needed some persuading to take the plunge, Tapiki said.
"We had to coach the lady. She was a little bit worried and scared, which is understandable, but she did it."
Rescuers could be heard yelling "jump in". Shortly before 9.55pm, she did so, and was pulled out. The man was rescued the same way.
Police then asked firefighters to cut the line that was holding the near-submerged ute to the bridge, as it was "starting to compromise the handrail".
Within minutes, the ute was completely lost to the river and quickly drifted downstream.
Wellington Free Ambulance operations manager Geoff Procter said the man and woman were cold and wet, but otherwise fine. They were taken to hospital as a precaution.
In a statement, police said they believed alcohol was a factor in the crash.
"[We] are disappointed in the poor judgement shown by these individuals and the risk they posed to themselves and those coming to their rescue, by attempting to drive in the water in these conditions," they said.
Police were speaking with the pair.
A few locals had gathered beside the river as the dramatic rescue got underway.
One man said the river rose about 200mm in just 25 minutes.