Stuck bus checks disputed

STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 12:58 14/05/2014

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A Nelson man on a bus stranded by slips during the pre-Easter storm is disputing claims from the Transport Agency that the passengers were checked on during the night.

The Nelson Mail yesterday reported on retired scientist Oliver Sutherland's ordeal of being trapped on a bus near Kaikoura after his flight from Christchurch to Nelson was cancelled on April 17.

Sutherland was one of 27 passengers who were then put on a bus to get to Nelson. However, bad weather and slips meant the bus was trapped overnight outside Kaikoura.

The passengers were calling on the prime minister investigate why they were left in "perilous" conditions on the road in a leaking bus with no toilets and no communications.

Sutherland said two people on the bus required medical attention, including a man who had recently been treated for a brain tumour.

NZTA highway manager Colin Knaggs told Fairfax motorists trapped between the two slips were not abandoned and contractors were on site throughout the night along with police from Blenheim and Kaikoura.

He said passengers on the bus were spoken to via the bus' intercom and workers identified those who were distressed and ensured they were "removed from the area".

A Defence Force unimog truck from Blenheim provided food and hot drinks to those who where stranded, he said.

However, Sutherland disputed this.

He said the only contact the passengers had during the night was with a police officer at 11pm.

"We know we weren't the only ones trapped that night. Nobody got on the bus to ask how we were; we have a man who ended up in hospital afterwards.

"I talked to him this morning. He was appalled to hear this."

The NZTA confirmed today that contractors had helped motorists in cars, but did not speak to the bus passengers because police had.

Knaggs said the weather caught everyone off guard, and in hindsight the road should have been closed earlier.

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- The Nelson Mail

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