Stalled hunt for truck driver 'frustrating'

GRANT BRYANT
Last updated 05:00 14/05/2014
Terry Erceg
GRANT BRYANT/Fairfax NZ
CHUNK OF DANGER: Queenstown police constable Terry Erceg holding the distinctively shaped piece of metal that flew from a truck trailer through Casey Booth's windscreen.

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Frustration is mounting over stalled progress in tracking a truck driver who let a steel implement fly from his trailer into oncoming traffic, almost costing two teens their lives.

The incident happened about noon on Saturday 3 May when 19-year-old Casey Booth and his friend 16-year-old Katie Scott were driving along the Lower Shotover bridge into Queenstown.

They both saw what they initially thought was a piece of wood fly from a trailer with a fluttering motion, and punch through the windscreen near the steering wheel.

It turned out to be a 90cm, 4kg piece of angled steel of a weathered brown finish which veered up, clearing a 4cm overhead gap, and lodged into the car's roof with enough force to crumple a strut brace.

Booth, a Cromwell painter, is angry he has not heard from Queenstown police since the incident.

"Now that I know a witness has come forward, I'm just really surprised there hasn't been any progress, or any phone calls made to keep us updated - it would have been real good just to get a call," he said.

"The car's off the road because of the windscreen, which I can't afford to replace, and I'm having to stay with my dad.

"I have to walk about 4km to see my son, and can't even drive around to go house hunting. I was just getting myself on my feet when this happened, and it's real frustrating."

He was sure the truck belonged to a well known company, which would have rosters police could use to pinpoint the driver.

"The trucks would probably have GPS, too, which the cops could use to really narrow things down."

Queenstown police yesterday confirmed there had been no further progress in the case after a witness came forward last week.

Police last week appealed to any local engineers or builders who might know about the implement, which had tapered edges and could have been shaped for a specific cause on a construction site.

Booth had had to take three days off work after his little finger became infected from being grazed by the flying steel.

"It's all a big pain in the ass. I couldn't afford those days off and am chasing ACC to get reimbursed."

Despite mounting frustration, he did not want the driver to lose his job if caught.

"I wouldn't want him to get fired, but I would want him to face charges and just to pay for stuff like fixing the car, and doctor's bills."

Meanwhile, Scott, who is a Northern-Southland College student, has counted herself lucky to be alive, but has been affected by nightmares and flashbacks of the incident.

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"It's crazy when I think about how we actually survived, because that piece of steel is just so long. Me and my mum had to drive back over the same bridge the next day and I just bawled my eyes out when we hit the point that it happened.

"That night I had nightmares and since then I've had a few flashbacks, where I see the steel flying towards." 

- The Southland Times

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