Wellington driver's 40m plunge a 'miracle'

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 17:26 07/04/2014
van
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ

BIG DROP: The gap where a van went through a fence in Karori.

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Police are calling the survival of a van driver who plunged off a 40-metre cliff only to land in the middle of a busy Wellington intersection without harming anyone else a "miracle".

The man, aged in his 20s, escaped with moderate injuries after his van burst through a cliff barrier about 1.45pm today. It then flew across an intersection, dodging a series of potentially deadly hazards as he went, landing near the Karori tunnel.

Police said the driver appeared to have crashed through a hillside fence in Raroa Cres. The van landed in the Chaytor St and Birdwood Ave intersection. It rolled at least once and then landed on its wheels about 50m away from the bank, skidding to a halt against a car park fence.

"It's just a miracle there was no-one on the intersection at the time," Sergeant John Press said.

"He's missed a lamp-post with a sharpened top, which is carrying some high tension power lines - he missed that by a metre - and then he's come down onto the road," Press said.

"If there had been any pedestrians there he could have landed on them.

"Then he's come through the intersection and if there had been anyone there, we could have been tied up a lot longer."

A witness driving behind the van driver was shocked when the driver missed a corner and crashed straight through a fence and down the bank - and even more stunned to find he'd walked away.

The woman, who did not want to be named, said the van driver did not swerve but continued straight ahead. She stopped as soon as she could and called the police, fearing the driver would be dead.

"Knowing the height of the bank and hearing the crash, I honestly thought no-one could walk away from that crash," she said. "I'm so pleased to hear he's going to be OK."

The van was taken away by a tow truck and Wellington Free Ambulance took the man to Wellington Hospital.

A Wellington Hospital spokeswoman said about 5pm the crash victim was in a stable condition and was likely to stay in hospital overnight.

A 21-year old man was killed in a crash in the area in 2008. Two other passengers were also injured when the driver of the car carrying the four teens lost control travelling down Chaytor St. It turned into Raroa Cres toward the Northland tunnel before going out of control, hitting a barrier and breaking several poles before going into a bank.

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- The Dominion Post

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