Passer-by saves truck driver after bridge crash

UPTURNED: The upside-down truck can be seen in the river, as a tractor lifts some of its weight.
UPTURNED: The upside-down truck can be seen in the river, as a tractor lifts some of its weight.

A truck driver spent 30 minutes with his head held above water by passing motorists after he crashed off a bridge at Kyeburn, Central Otago, today.

Trina Steele was first on the accident scene and discovered the truck had landed upside down in the Kyeburn River, in freezing cold water about a metre deep.

The driver was trapped inside the crushed cab, but as the windows had smashed he was able to get his mouth and nose above the water level. 

Chris Steele, who lived nearby, rushed to help after a phone call from Trina, his sister-in-law.

Trina Steele's husband Tony also arrived, and the trio took turns holding the trapped driver’s head as they waited for emergency services to arrive.

Senior Sergeant Ian Kerrisk said the 57-year-old Kyeburn man’s Toyota Hilux crashed off the side of the bridge at Scott’s Lane about 3.40pm.

With all the commotion, Chris Steele did not realise the driver was his neighbour ‘‘Davey’’.

‘‘I can’t believe he survived that fall.’’

His neighbour had been expecting a delivery of grain at his farm and was more worried about that than himself, he said.

‘‘I assured him it would be OK and we needed to look after him first.’’.

The trio tired in vain to open the truck doors but they were stuck.

Chris Steele used the bale fork on his tractor to help lift the weight of the truck to make things more comfortable for the driver.

In the meantime, Trina Steel continued to hold the trapped driver’s head above water for about 15 minutes until emergency services arrived.

The bank of the river was so steep Steel’s tractor got stuck and required the help of another neighbour’s tractor to get out, he said.

Police said the driver was cut free from the vehicle and flown to Dunedin Hospital. 

He suffered lacerations and possible head injuries that were not life threatening.

Speed and alcohol were not factors in the crash.

A police communications spokesman said the man was "very lucky".

"Someone held his head up for a bit so he was pretty lucky."

Chris Steele believed the crash was caused by the slippery timber after the recent rain and the pot holes at the end of the bridge.

The Southland Times