As smoke filled Rochelle Andrews' car she yelled for her rescuers to stay back.
It was a natural reaction from a young woman who has volunteered her time to save others as a Hamilton-based ambulance officer for the past five years.
"Well, I wasn't going anywhere," she joked from her hospital room yesterday.
"What was the point in putting them in harm's way?"
Miss Andrews, 27, will spend Christmas in Waikato Hospital, where a special present will be delivered on Boxing Day.
"That is weight-bearing day," she said. "I'm pretty excited about that."
It's almost a month since Miss Andrews was critically injured in a crash on State Highway 3 north of Ohaupo, and police are still looking for the distinctive 1990s-model turquoise Ford Falcon believed to be responsible for the November 14 crash.
Miss Andrews had spent the day in Te Awamutu doing promotional work before the official opening of Jett's Gym, where she planned to work as a personal trainer.
She recalled how, on her return to Hamilton, a Ford Falcon tail-gated her car.
"I really hate that, and I touched my brakes, as you do, to get him to back off."
When overtaking a van on a passing lane, Miss Andrews watched as the Falcon came up behind her car, looking like it was ready to pass her, too.
She indicated and moved in front of the van.
"Then he came up beside me and screamed at me, gave me the fingers then moved past in front of me and slammed on his brakes - that's when I lost control, there was nowhere for me to go," she said.
Watching the incident unfold, the driver of an oncoming southbound vehicle managed to stop before Miss Andrews' car swerved across the road. Her car then crashed head-on with another car.
"I'm hoping to meet the lady driver of that vehicle soon - I think that will be a really good thing to do," Miss Andrews said.
Despite the extent of her injuries, Miss Andrews remained conscious throughout much of her ordeal.
"I looked down and my left thigh was way over to the right and I remember thinking I couldn't feel my legs, but they were tucked up under the engine," she said.
Miss Andrews remembers clearly firefighters cutting her car apart to allow her colleagues to treat her injuries and get her to the hospital, where she underwent life-saving surgery, multiple transfusions, and was fitted with rods and pins.
But despite the positive outlook and smile, Miss Andrews has questions.
"If I could speak to the man who caused my crash, I'd have plenty to say, like: what the hell was so important that had him driving in such a hurry that day," she said.
Since the crash, Miss Andrews has found the loss of her independence difficult, relying on hospital staff to help her shower and even brush her teeth - which is why she can't leave hospital for Christmas.
And while she's angry about the crash, she is also thankful to be alive.
In June, she attended a crash in Gordonton that killed three young men after their vehicle crashed into a tree.
"To be honest, my vehicle was worse than theirs - so yes, I know I am lucky to be celebrating Christmas at all."
Anyone with information about the distinctive turquoise Ford Falcon seen travelling north on State Highway 3 towards Hamilton on November 14 is asked to contact Hamilton police on (07) 858 6200 or, alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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