River victim blames 'massive' potholes

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.

A Kyeburn farmer was trying to avoid "massive" potholes before plunging his ute off a bridge into an icy river.

David Greer, 57, crashed his Toyota Hilux off Kyeburn's Scott's Lane Bridge on May 23, and is calling for the Central Otago District Council to make immediate bridge improvements.

Greer was knocked unconscious and woke beneath the waters of the Kyeburn River. The truck's cab was crushed, the driver's side window had smashed and he was trapped in about 1 metre of water.

Neighbours came across the scene moments after the accident and held Greer's head above water before emergency services arrived.

Greer said he was trying to avoid potholes about four metres from the bridge before he lost control.

"The bridge has massive potholes at each end. As you get on the bridge you straddle them - that's what I do - so you are not driving through the deepest part of the puddle . . . I remember the front wheels slipping over the lip of the running boards and then I was in trouble basically. For a while I felt like I was at a 45-degree angle. It's quite a narrow bridge - there is not much to spare at the best of times.

"If I had my way, I would insist these bridges should have five to six metres of tarseal at the end."

In the past, there had also been chicken mesh stapled to the boards on the bridge to take some of the slip out of it, he said. However, that had been removed.

"There are potholes on the ends there and only three or four runners for each wheel mark and they are slippery when they get wet . . . it is a smaller country road but I'm afraid from a resident's point of view we are paying just as much and getting less and less back from our rates. If the council had their way they would close that bridge."

He had already complained to council about the state of some of the rural roads in the area, including the Waipiata-Kyeburn Rd which he described as "almost undriveable".

Roading engineer Scott Graham said he had been on the bridge half an hour before the incident and could see "no reason for concern".

Potholes should be something expected on an unsealed road at this time of year, he said.

Scott's Lane Bridge was one of the 35 bridges identified in a recent council workshop as needing to be repaired or replaced.

It was also on the council's top seven most expensive bridges in need of work.

The incident would not change priorities on any structural renewal work that might or might not be planned, he said.

The Southland Times