Escape 'miracle' for rescuers

Last updated 13:00 26/12/2013
Collins Valley crash
Fairfax NZ

LUCKY ESCAPE: The flattened wrecks of the two cars and the rolled truck.

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For five people to walk away virtually unscathed from a crash that flattened two cars and rolled a freight truck was a miracle, both for the survivors and for emergency services, one of the survivors says.

Belinda Vavasour, 66, of Blenheim, and St Mary's Catholic Church priest Father Aidan Kay, 70, were hit by the trailer of a freight truck and another car on State Highway 6 near Rai Valley on Monday last week.

Mrs Vavasour was trapped in her car, pinned by the flattened roof, for more than an hour before firefighters cut her out.

She came out with nothing but a "ding" on her lip and "a few bruises", she said on Tuesday.

Father Aidan simply opened his door and got out.

The pair had been on their way to Nelson to look for Marlborough's first baptism records to prepare for the 160th anniversary of St Mary's Church next year.

"We were just minding our business when we both saw the truck coming around the corner over the white line and the trailer was leaning on its side, across the centre of the road," Mrs Vavasour said.

The car ahead of them accelerated and managed to avoid the trailer, but the shipping container on the trailer smashed on to the back corner of Mrs Vavasour's Mitsubishi ASX, shattering the windscreen and somehow completely missing Father Aidan.

"The momentum of the trailer was pushing us back," he said. "All I saw was everything going past me, but going in the wrong direction."

The container also landed on a car containing two brothers from Argentina, Matias and Agustin Carrasco, flattening the roof to the window sills, but they also escaped by climbing out of the smashed front window.

"When I got out I saw them holding on to each other's elbows and checking to see if each other were OK," Father Aidan said.

The truck driver was also uninjured when his cab landed on its side.

The woman in the car ahead of them was a nurse and came back to help Mrs Vavasour.

A group of sixth-year medical students on their way to catch a ferry in Picton also stopped to help.

There was no cellphone reception where the accident happened in Collins Valley, and a passerby drove to nearby Rai Valley fire station to report the crash.

Mrs Vavasour was cut out her car soon after emergency services arrived and was airlifted with Father Aidan to Wairau Hospital, in Blenheim.

People had told Father Aidan the shock would hit him, but he was still waiting, he said.

Asked whether he believed their luck was a result of divine intervention, Father Aidan said his faith was no stronger than before.

"I don't think God's up there pulling strings . . . whether it's crucifixions or resurrections or accidents . . . God's there, everywhere."

Mrs Vavasour said they were grateful for everyone who helped them at the scene and at the hospital. It was a miracle for emergency services, she said.

"They've got a rotten, rotten job, haven't they, and for all of them picking up the broken pieces to have all five people involved virtually walk away unscathed, that's who I think it's a miracle for."

The Carrasco brothers, who told their incredible escape story to the Nelson Mail last week, were at the start of a South Island trip when the accident happened.

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They celebrated Christmas in Nelson with members of the South American community here, including some from their home city of Cordoba.

- Nelson

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