Driver lucky to be alive

JO MCKENZIE-MCLEAN AND GRANT BRYANT
Last updated 10:42 05/05/2014
car
JO MCKENZIE-MCLEAN
LUCKY ESCAPE: Casey Booth, 19.
Casey Booth
Grant Bryant/Fairfax NZ
SIZEABLE: Queenstown police constable Terry Erceg holding the distinctively shaped piece of metal that flew from a truck trailer through the windscreen of Cromwell's Casey Booth on Saturday.

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A Cromwell man cheated death by a matter of centimetres when a 4kg chunk of steel came smashing through his windscreen near Queenstown at the weekend.

Casey Booth, 19, was driving towards Queenstown on the Lower Shotover Bridge on Saturday about 2pm when he saw a large object fly out of the back of a truck and trailer unit, which had pulled out from Tucker Beach Road on to State Highway 6 heading towards Cromwell.

"I could see it flipping over as it came towards us. We didn't think it was a big bit of steel. We thought it was a piece of wood that came off the back it was so fast. There was glass everywhere, it was in my teeth.

"It was bloody scary. We are lucky to be alive, really. It was pretty bloody close. There was about four centimetres away from us from where it entered the car. It did graze my pinky finger. I think I am more in shock now than anything."

Initially Booth and his female friend - with whom he was on a first date - thought the object had hit the windscreen and flown over the bonnet. "We pulled over and hopped out and looked around but couldn't see it. When we got back in the car I was looking in the rear vision mirror and the roof looked really low."

To the pair's horror the piece of metal was stuck in the roof of the car.

Police this morning released further images of the piece of steel in the hope that someone will come forward with more information.

Senior constable Julian Cahill, in a photo session with The Southland Times, said the roughly 90cm piece of weathered metal was distinctive enough to jog someone's memory.

''This is a substantial piece of metal weighing between three and five kilograms, and is tapered at both ends, which someone will recognise,'' he said.

The fact that the truck was seen coming off Tucker Beach Rd also drastically narrowed the possibilities of the vehicle the piece of metal flew from, Cahill said. Tucker Beach Rd comes to a dead-end at the banks of the Shotover River.

The incident had echoes of a fatality near Wanaka about six months ago, he said.

Farm worker Rutger Telford Hale, 22, was travelling with his 26-year-old partner, Deezy Dee, on the Lake Hawea to Albert Town Road at 6.25am on October 24 when a mystery object smashed through his windscreen and killed him.

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Extensive police searches failed to find the object. However, fragments recovered from the crashed car were sent to both the Institute of Environmental Science and Research and the University of Otago for analysis. The tests revealed that the unknown object was made of or contained fragments of stainless steel of a common grade used in vehicle parts and other everyday items such as tools and cookware.

The case remains open.

Acting Sergeant Feleki Uhrle, of Queenstown, said the latest incident served as a reminder for people to secure loads properly. Police wanted to speak to the driver of the truck. Anyone with information should contact Queenstown Police on (03) 441 1600.

- Fairfax Media

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