Police have successfully lifted a crashed truck up a steep bank near Hundalee, North Canterbury, but the body of its driver was not found underneath.
The search for the driver will start again at first light tomorrow, with debris and freight to be cleared away as well.
Police described the terrain as "challenging".
A source close to the recovery operation told The Press a police dog was being called in for a wider search.
The truck and trailer, removed from the ravine by a crane, were "extensively damaged," Sergeant Graeme Crosson said.
An infrared search yesterday did not detect body heat in the area and it was unlikely the driver had cleared the wreckage alive.
The truck and seven-metre trailer plunged down a cliff just north of the intersection of Claverley Rd and SH1 yesterday morning about 5.30am.
The chances of finding the driver alive were remote, rescuers said.
Inspector Rick Jury said the stretch of road was still reduced to one lane and controlled by traffic lights.
"I think motorists should leave a bit earlier if they are travelling in that area, and the road will be closed for a period today when the vehicle is recovered," Jury said.
- The Press