Another crash on perilous hill road

ON THE SCENE: Emergency services workers attempt to free a woman trapped in the wreckage of her vehicle after it collided with a logging truck on State Highway 6 near Rai Valley this afternoon.
ON THE SCENE: Emergency services workers attempt to free a woman trapped in the wreckage of her vehicle after it collided with a logging truck on State Highway 6 near Rai Valley this afternoon.

A truck driver says there was a "look of horror" on the face of a woman whose car crashed into his truck after crossing the centre line on the Rai Saddle.

The woman, 67, is in a stable condition in Nelson Hospital after the crash on State Highway 6 near Rai Valley yesterday afternoon, on a stretch of road described as "challenging".

Waimea Contract Carriers driver Duane Black said he was driving to Nelson with a load of logs when the woman came around the bend "way too fast".

"I heard her tyres from inside the truck and with the radio going, so as soon as I saw her come around that corner, I could hear her tyres sliding across.

"There was a look of horror on her face, a total inability to do anything about it. She was going way too fast for anyone to have done anything."

Her car hit the right-hand side of his truck, bounced off and ran into the bank on the roadside.

Black radioed for help. He said the woman was conscious after the accident, and he watched as emergency services worked to free her from her wrecked blue Honda.

The woman had to be cut from the car. Her right arm was bandaged at the scene, while her neck was put in a brace.

Black said it was the first road accident he had been involved in, and he was left shaken.

The woman was flown to Nelson Hospital by the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter. She was treated by the helicopter's intensive care paramedic for multiple injuries.

Sergeant Barrie Greenall of the Marlborough highway patrol was at the scene. He said it appeared that the woman's car had crossed the centre line. Police were investigating the crash.

He said that while it was a 100kmh road, drivers should drive "within the limits of the car, [the] road and what they see".

Greenall said a minor mistake that drivers got away with many times on roads like SH6, combined with bad timing, could produce a result like yesterday's crash.

Tasman road policing Senior Sergeant Grant Andrews said the accident was a timely reminder about driving to the conditions.

"The weather is going to be adverse for the majority of the Easter weekend, and people need to slow down and drive to the conditions, think about whether the journey is really necessary, and maybe not go if there is doubt."

NZ Transport Authority acting highways manager for Nelson and Tasman, Mark Owen, called the Rai Saddle road a "challenging route" and a high priority for safety improvements.

"We have invested close to $2 million in the last three years on safety improvements such as guardrails and signs to help to protect and inform motorists.

"We plan continued improvements for the foreseeable future to ensure it becomes progressively safer and more forgiving."

Waimea Contract Carriers director Phil Harris said Black was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He said the company was investigating the accident, but it did not appear that Black was at fault. The truck's cab was hit quite hard.

He could not recall any other incidents on that stretch of road involving the company's trucks.

"It is a hazardous piece of road, and it has been there for a long time.

"We teach our drivers to drive to the conditions, to treat it with respect. Going fast through there is not a good idea."

Black said he always saw people speeding in the Nelson region, and drivers needed to be mindful of their speed at all times. He drove the Whangamoa route up to three times a day.

During the past five years there have been two fatal crashes and 11 serious injury crashes on the highway between Hira and Rai Valley.

Seven of those crashes have involved motorcyclists.