A driver has survived eight hours in the cold largely uninjured after driving off the side of Rimutaka Hill Road in what a rescuer has called an ''amazing survival story''.
The woman, 51, crashed down the side of the steep and windy hill about 10pm last night.
A specialised ''high-angle" rescue crew from the Porirua Fire Station spent last night searching for the woman.
Senior station officer Trevor Sheenhan said the car was about 60 metres down the bank, which was very steep.
''It would be almost a cliff."
The woman was found a distance beyond the car at 6am. She was winched out by rescue helicopter just before 7.30am.
The ''impenetrable bush'' was the only thing that stopped the car travelling to the bottom of the hill.
"If the bush wasn't there and if she was in the car for that, the chances for surviving that would be pretty [low]. But miracles do happen."
Acting Senior Sergeant Andrzej Kowalczyk said the woman was suffering possible shock and hypothermia when she was found. She had no life-threatening injuries.
Kowalczyk said it was a cold night on the hill with strong winds blowing.
Emergency services were alerted last night when a member of the public found a car-sized hole in a fence on Rimutaka Hill about 10pm. An off-duty search and rescue officer arrived at the scene and scaled the bank to find the car but no-one inside.
A police dog was brought in to help find the woman but the terrain was too steep.
Searchers swept the area in the likely places she may have wandered.
Westpac Rescue Helicopter crewman Dave Greenberg said it was an amazing survival story, especially as the woman was in good condition when she was winched out.
''A bit cold but no apparent injuries.''
She was able to talk to rescuers, he said.
''When she first got in someone had given her yellow rain pants. I said to her 'yellow's not your colour' and I got a bit of a smile.''
At Wellington Hospital she was able to walk from the helicopter.
Rescuers had cleared a large area of bush to help with the winching operation but it was still tricky work for the pilot, contending with high winds and flying near the edge of the steep hill.
MetService forecaster John Law said the temperature on the hill got down to 7degC last night.
"Fortunately it wasn't as cold as it has been."
The crash was on the Featherston side of the hill about halfway down.
Her family had been notified.
* The distance of the fall was originally reported as 300m. Emergency services have since revised that figure down.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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