Courier hurt during fall into deep hole

VERY LUCKY: Peter Humm considers his injuries could have been a lot worse.
VERY LUCKY: Peter Humm considers his injuries could have been a lot worse.

Christchurch courier Peter Humm needs dental reconstruction surgery after his scooter plunged into a metre-deep road hole that had its steel cover removed by construction workers.

The 58-year-old was driving through Avondale to deliver a package about 7.30am on Thursday, October 10, when he plunged into the excavation, which did not have warning signs.

His face slammed against the edge of the asphalt, smashing out his four front teeth.

He bit through his tongue, suffered serious facial gashes to his ear, chin and jaw and now requires dental reconstruction surgery.

International construction giant McConnell Dowell, which is one of five key contractors working for the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team (Scirt), was responsible for the Emlyn Place construction site, where workers were repairing underground pipes.

Police were called and the new Government health and safety regulator, WorkSafe New Zealand, was notified. The site was shut down for a week after the crash.

Scirt carried out a full investigation and found "a steel plate that was previously covering the excavation had been temporarily removed", general manager Duncan Gibb said.

"It was a very regrettable incident and there was an immediate response to help prevent other safety incidents."

Safety audits at Scirt sites "now include a more rigorous focus on public safety".

Humm does not remember the accident and said his first recollection was coming to in the ambulance as medics tried to stop the blood flowing from his face.

"It felt like I'd been in the ring with Muhammad Ali. I could barely breathe, my neck was all squashed up and there was a fair amount of blood.

"I was very, very lucky. I easily could've broken my neck."

Despite this, he felt no bitterness towards the construction company.

If anything, he was "a bit angry" at himself, he said.

"They allow us to do our job in that area and we know it's a construction site, so what annoyed me the most is that I am always usually aware of my surroundings and for five or so seconds on that day I wasn't, for some reason."

McConnell and Dowell representatives have visited Humm to deliver flowers and offer to pay power or grocery bills to help with his recovery.

"They have been extremely worried about my health and safety and made it quite clear that it was the company at fault and that these things shouldn't happen, but an accident is just that, an accident," Humm said.

Gibb confirmed that lessons had been learned and were now being "shared across all Scirt delivery teams, primarily to physically separate all work sites from the public, no matter how short a timeframe for the activity".

Humm began working as a courier about two years ago, after two of his brother's engraving shops, that he used to work in, were lost in the February 2011 earthquake.

He is still waiting to hear if ACC will cover the dental reconstruction surgery needed to replace his four missing front teeth.

Canterbury road policing manager Inspector Al Stewart urged drivers to "take extra care" on roads under construction.

"Roadworks are going to be the reality for the foreseeable future and drivers have to be extra careful.

"Slow down and give yourself time to react to something that perhaps shouldn't be in the middle of the road," he said.

The Press