One dead, three injured after car plunges into Wairarapa river video

Caleb Harris /

Acting sergeant Tony Matheson of Wairarapa police describes the rescue and salvage operation after a car plunged into the swollen Waipoua River on the Masterton bypass road this morning, killing one and injuring three.

Police have named the 35-year-old man killed when a car left the road and plunged into a Wairarapa river.

Benjamin Young from Lower Hutt died in the accident, while three others were winched to safety from the rooftop of their submerged car.

Police were alerted to the crash off Paierau Rd, about 7 kilometres north of Masterton, at 4am on Saturday.

The wreckage of a car that crashed into the Waipoua River, near Masterton, is retrieved from the water.

The wreckage of a car that crashed into the Waipoua River, near Masterton, is retrieved from the water.

Acting sergeant Tony Matheson, of Masterton Police, said a late-model Holden Commodore went around a corner and through a wire fence before hitting a concrete abutment and crashing into the flooded Waipoua River.

READ MORE: One dead in car river plunge

The car appeared to have partially disintegrated on impact with the bridge, sending parts flying across to the far side of the river.

A members of the Police National Dive Squad works to retrieve the wreckage of a car.

A members of the Police National Dive Squad works to retrieve the wreckage of a car.

The body of Young was found next to the bridge, a short distance from where the car was almost completely submerged.

He was dead before emergency service arrived a few minutes later, Matheson said.

"It's just a tragic event for the family and his friends."

The wreckage was still visible in the Waipoua River come daylight on Saturday.

The wreckage was still visible in the Waipoua River come daylight on Saturday.

Police believe speed was a potential factor in the crash. They have also taken blood samples from the two women and one man who survived to determine if alcohol was involved.

Ad Feedback

The three survivors - aged 16, 23 and 25, and from the Wellington region - were winched by the Westpac rescue helicopter from the roof of the vehicle to the riverbank.

Two survivors were seriously injured and one had moderate injuries. They were taken to Wairarapa Hospital in Masterton where they were treated for fractures and hypothermia.

A small piece of the submerged car gives an indication of how little space there was for the three people who were ...

A small piece of the submerged car gives an indication of how little space there was for the three people who were trapped on top.

A hospital spokeswoman said two of the patients were "distressed and in a lot of pain" but their conditions were stable on Sunday. A third was transferred to Wellington Hospital and was in a stable condition on Sunday. 

The Life Flight Trust, which operates the Westpac rescue helicopter, got called to the scene after a local farmer heard the crash and discovered the wreckage about 4am.

The police serious crash unit examine the scene where the car left the road and plunged into the river.

The police serious crash unit examine the scene where the car left the road and plunged into the river.

Life Flight crewman Julian Burn described it as the most challenging winch rescue he had ever performed.

The three survivors were huddled on the car roof, just a few inches above water, leaving a space no bigger than a welcome mat upon which the helicopter crew could land a paramedic.

The area was pitch black and there were strong winds knocking the helicopter around.

Making matters worse was the glass and jagged metal on the car roof, as well as nearby powerlines, which made lowering a paramedic down on to the car roof extra tricky.

Police and the fire service did what they could to illuminate the scene from the riverbank, but it was so dark that the helicopter crew had to operate with night vision goggles, Burn said.

"The situation was really dangerous ... we knew we had to be extremely careful because even the slightest mistake and we might have knocked one of those people into the water."

The three people trapped on the car roof were healthy enough to be placed into a harness and moved to the riverbank, Burn said. They managed to get all three of them to safety in about 10 minutes.

Any slower and they might have been in trouble, because the helicopter crew spotted a lightning storm in the distance, which was closing in as they were performing the winch, Burn said.

"Had it all happened about 20 minutes later, we might not have been able to do it ... they were extremely lucky."

Burn said the speed of the river's current and the lack of visibility made it far too dangerous to try and swim across.

"It was white water and it was moving pretty quickly. Swimming would have been a bad move. They made the right call by staying where they were."

The three rescued people were cold and in shock when paramedics reached them, he said.

There was a "sense of relief" that they had been rescued but they were also quite emotional about the fact one of them did not make it.

Matheson said it appeared those involved in the crash were all friends who had been completing a round trip between the Wellington-Hutt Valley area and Palmerston North.

It is thought they had been at a car enthusiast event somewhere in the Manawatu, he said.


Paierau Rd resident Christine Gleeson doesn't know why she was still awake at 4am on Saturday, but it is a good thing she was.

Had she been asleep, there's a chance she may not have heard the car that crashed into the Waipoua River not far from her house, and the resulting screams in the night.

"I was awake and I could hear the car coming down the road. Then I just heard this loud bang and then silence," she said.

Gleeson and her husband Barry went outside to take a look and heard the panicked voices of people scrambling out of the car and screaming "help," she said.

By the time the Glessons made it to the river's edge, the three survivors had climbed atop their submerged car but were trapped in the middle of the swiftly flowing river, which was in flood.

Christine Gleeson then ran back inside to phone police.

She and her husband had lived on Paierau Rd for 23 years and this was the third time they had seen a car crash near the bridge that crosses the Waipoua River.

Because the road curved around a corner quite close to the bridge, it made the stretch of road "a bit dangerous" for any vehicles that were going fast, she said.


 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers

'The boy couldn't breathe' video

Video showed men masked and dressed in Mr Four Square costumes apparently attacking two teens on a train from Britomart ...

Two teens were on their way home for dinner when they were punched and kicked by a group of men dressed as Mr Four Square.

Big win for Blenheim

A million-dollar winner, but Powerball not struck.

Blenheim Lotto player strikes it lucky with $1m win.

Police investigate gay hate pastor

A police spokesman said "police are aware of [Robertson's remarks], and are taking it seriously".

Logan Robertson says gay couples marrying deserved a bullet in the head. Police say they're taking it seriously.

Boy in hospital

A 12-year-old boy was hit by a car in West Auckland.

A 12-year-old boy injured when hit by a car in West Auckland is in a serious condition in hospital.


Brothel building for sale

Il-Bordello is on Vivian St.

"More bang for your buck" for this brothel building.

Missing teenager dead

Hastings teen Ariana Reedy, missing since Tuesday night, has been found dead.

The 15-year-old girl was last seen late at night on Napier's Bluff Hill.

Caution: Silly road names ahead

The Poplar Ave interchange on the Kapiti Expressway, in the middle of the shot. Hugging the hills is the old highway, ...

Not everyone took Kapiti's $100,000 consultation project entirely seriously.

Botany v bikes in bush battle video

160817 News Photos: Maarten Holl
From left, Chris Horne, Sunita Singh and Marg Pearce have co-signed a letter to the ...

Botanists fear Porirua's new mountain bike track will destroy a native reserve.


Scribe 'fighting addiction': family

Malo Ioane Luafutu, better known as Scribe, is wanted by Canterbury police for failing to appear in court and various ...

Scribe's family stand by the "teddy bear".

'Pushed to the edge' video

A car hit by snow at Mt Hutt.

Hennie Murray was among the thousands leaving Mt Hutt skifield when "everything turned white". Avalanche.

Police officer under investigation

Southern District Commander Superintendent Paul Basham confirmed an investigation was under way.

Constable allegedly sent inappropriate texts to woman who sought police assistance.

Road rage attack witnesses sought

Markus Scherrer claims he was punched in the face by another motorist

Witnesses sought after man claims he was punched in the face at a red light.


Train festival steams into town

Nan Owen used to catch a train to work and to Auckland and Wellington to visit family.

Nan Owen will journey back in time this weekend with a ride on a steam train.

Iwi stalls bottling

An application to take 6.9m litres per day from the Blue Spring near Putaruru is on hold.

Raukawa's concerns put an application to bottle billions of litres from Putaruru's Blue Springs for export on hold.

Kick to woman's head rated

Robert Alexander Sargison, 63, was sentenced in the Hamilton District Court on Monday.

Robert Sargison sentenced to home detention and community work for enraged beating.

Two serious after crash

The person in the blue car was trapped and the roof had to be cut-off to remove them.

Three people have been injured in the crash on SH25.


Kids hailed for rescue video

Sarah and Charlie Strand and Frikkie du Preez from Hawera Intermediate School are being hailed as heroes.

Their own racing hearts didn't stop three intermediate students from helping an elderly woman in distress.

A very sick winter

Admissions to hospital for influenza hit a record high at Taranaki Base Hospital in July.

Getting sick in Taranaki has never been easier thanks to this year's influenza strain.

Life after suicide attempt

Nganeko Eriwata attempted suicide 11 years ago and now she is fighting to help educate people on prevention.

A suicide attempt spurred a woman to fight to stop others from getting to the same point.

Water rescue logged

A water rescue was launched for a log.

A water rescue was launched in Taranaki - but it was just a log.


Free ink offer draws crowds video

Jamee Mitchell's new tattoo.

An offer of free tattoos drew a line of keen punters staunchly queuing in winter downpours.

Support gathers

Graham Judd and Christina Drummond visit Te Manawa.

Te Manawa starts turning ideas for a $58m new building into plans.

Sudden death shocks

Ambulance staff alerted police to the woman's death on Wednesday morning.

Police are investigating the unexplained death of a woman at a Palmerston North flat.

Church confirms its vicar

All Saints vicar Nigel Dixon wants to ensure people come before buildings.

Transitional church leader Nigel Dixon has become a fixture at All Saints.


From the cage to the stage video

Meg Cole, her daughter Ella Dols and their SPCA rescue cat Gypsy, who won numerous prizes at the Nelson Cat Show.

An SPCA "ball of fluff" rescue kitten ended up winning best in show at the Nelson Cat Show.

Ankle defence fails

Nelson Police "inadvertently" kept a man with a fractured ankle at the station, instead of getting him medical attention.

A man who claimed police broke his ankle arresting him for drink driving has failed to get his conviction overturned.

Smoke or steam?

Emissions from South Pine in Annesbrook, Nelson.

Richmond's air pollution has breached national air quality standards four times this year.

Darts event scores bullseye

Morgan McDonald of Kaikoura plays in the NZ Darts Council national ...

The sharp end of Kiwi talent flocked to Motueka for the NZ Darts council nationals.


Teen killed in bridge crash

Marlborough 19-year-old George Holland died in a crash in Wairau Valley.

Man killed in crash between a truck and a ute in Wairau Valley was 19-year-old George Holland.

'Fury and the anger'

Some of the Blenheim residents opposing a proposed pyrolysis plant near an upmarket subdivision.

Council told it should have its backside kicked for letting the timber plant get this far.

State housing 'woefully inadequate'

Marlborough's ageing population is expected to put pressure on the region's social housing stock, report says.

Marlborough will need close to 800 state homes in 10 years as "housing-related poverty" balloons.

Kodi's first symphony

Kodi Rasmussen will make his debut as a conductor when his piece is performed by a full orchestra.

The floor is covered with scattered music scores and Kodi Rasmussen must resist any more changes.

South Canterbury

FastPost ... anything but

Veronica Fellows wants to know why it took six days for a birthday card she posted to her to her grandson to arrive.

Timaru woman Veronica Fellows questions why a birthday card took six days to travel 4km by post.

Hospital rebuild plan

South Canterbury District Health Board chief executive Nigel Trainor said it had decided to shift a planned ...

A proposal to partly redevelop Timaru Hospital has moved up a gear with plans now afoot to rebuild the facility.

Theft baffles council

All that remains of the toilet at Te Moana Gorge is a concrete pad.

A thief has stolen a toilet from a camping spot near Geraldine, after carefully unbolting it.

Clamping down on free-for-all

The building on Sophia St was inspected in March this year and found to be unsafe in the event of an earthquake. The ...

Council says people must stop snapping up reserved parks in earthquake-prone building.


'Chaotic' DHB department

The entrance to Dunedin Hospital.

Some patients have waited up to three years for a follow-up appointment due to dysfunction within a DHB department.

Cow neglect 'appalling'

Castlerock Dairies Limited and the managers who ran two farms were fined $60,000 in total in the Invercargill District ...

At least 193 cows on a Lumsden farm had to be euthanised in "one of the worst examples of long-term neglect".

Film festival growing in Gore

Theatre manager Peter Cairns at Gore's St James Theatre ahead of them hosting the New Zealand International Film ...

The Gore leg of the New Zealand International Film Festival is proving popular with Southland film buffs.

Missing runner found

A runner was missing for three-and-a-half hours in Southland before being tracked down by a search and rescue team on ...

A missing runner was found cold, but safe, after becoming lost with no cellphone battery.

Ad Feedback