Tourists badly hurt when van rolls

CHE BAKER
Last updated 05:00 09/01/2013

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Two seriously injured German male tourists were airlifted to Dunedin Hospital last night in a critical condition after one of them lost control of the van he was driving, causing it to roll in the Cromwell Gorge.

Ambulance south communications relief team manager Brendan McInnes said one of the men was flown directly to Dunedin Hospital and the other taken by road to Dunstan Hospital and later flown to Dunedin.

Witnesses to the crash, which happened about 4.50pm, said one of the men was thrown from the vehicle and was seen doing cartwheels in the air.

A woman who saw the van rolling towards her said: "It was horrible. It all went in slow motion. They are someone's poor sons from somewhere in the world."

At first she thought children had been involved in the crash as she could hear a child screaming, and yelled at her husband to rush and "save the children".

It is thought the van was travelling behind a car that was following an ambulance taking a patient to Dunstan Hospital.

The ambulance driver turned back to attend the crash.

Emergency services from Clyde, Cromwell and Alexandra responded to the callout and two rescue helicopters were needed to airlift the men to hospital.

It was not known last night what caused the crash and police investigations were continuing.

The state highway was blocked for almost two hours while emergency services worked at the scene to stabilise the patients and clear the road.

Traffic buildup was extensive and motorists were turned around at the Cromwell bridge and at Champagne Gully on the Alexandra side of the gorge.

John Klevstul, of Bannockburn, who was caught up in the traffic backlog, said he often drove the stretch of road between Alexandra and Cromwell.

"People drive this stretch of road like it's a race track," Mr Klevstul said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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