Farmer cheats death in river ordeal

RIVER DRAMA:  The scene of a crash in Kyeburn where a man was trapped in his truck after slipping off a bridge.
RIVER DRAMA: The scene of a crash in Kyeburn where a man was trapped in his truck after slipping off a bridge.

Beneath the river's ice-cold water David Greer twisted and turned as he tried to find a way out.

His left foot was wedged behind the clutch, he did not know which way was up or down and he was desperate for air.

Moments earlier, the sheep and beef farmer's Toyota Hilux had smashed through the railing of a bridge and nose-dived into the river and flipped onto its roof.

Greer, 57, was knocked unconscious and woke beneath the waters of the Kyeburn River in Central Otago about 3.40pm on Friday.

The truck's cab was crushed, the driver's side window had smashed and he was trapped inside in about 1 metre of water.

"To get air in the end I stuck my body out the truck window and twisted up the side of the truck," he told The Press while recovering at his home last night.

"Another couple of seconds and I was done for."

He tried to stay calm and catch his breath as his fight to keep his nose and mouth out of the freezing water began.

"I did yell help a couple of times but I thought that was a waste of time because nobody could hear me."

Minutes later Greer's next-door neighbour, Trina Steele, came across the crash on Scott's Ln. She called her sister-in-law, Janet, and asked her to dial 111 before rushing down to the river to help, not knowing who the driver was.

Soon other members of her family arrived and took turns keeping Greer's head above the water. They were unable get the door open to free his leg, she said.

Greer said: "By this stage my ears were full of water and my eyes were full of grit. They thought I was a bit delirious because I couldn't actually see or hear much while I was in there."

A tractor was brought in to help lift the weight of the truck to make things more comfortable for Greer. Eventually, the fire brigade arrived at the scene and helped force the door open.

Greer was pulled from the truck and staggered to shore with the help of others about 30 minutes after the crash. He was hypothermic.

"I didn't have much to spare there before the organs shut down," he said.

He was flown to Dunedin Hospital and discharged later that evening. Other than two black eyes, a sore neck and a few cuts and bruises he has emerged unscathed, but it will be a few days before he is back at work on the farm.

There had been a shower of rain before the crash, which likely caused his truck to slide off the bridge, he said.

The road on either side was dotted with potholes and in desperate need of repair by the council, he said.

Rosemay McDonald said her partner was very lucky to be alive.

"The gods were looking down on him that day," she said.

The Press