Driver recalls 'scary' river plunge

Queenstown man Adam Dear said his ute was filling with water when he got out of it in an amazing escape from the Kawarau River near Arrowtown.

His ute plunged down a steep 40-metre bank, landing upside down and under water in the river about 6pm on Monday.

Mr Dear said he was driving back from a job, towing a trailer with his ute, when it all went very wrong.

"I went to brake to slow, and the trailer just pushed the back end of the ute out, and it just sent me fishtailing up into the barrier and then rolled over the barrier, off the cliff edge and down into the water," he told Radio New Zealand.

After what seemed like a long time rolling, the ute came to a stop, upside down and started filling with water.

"It was completely black, I couldn't see anything and that's when it got quite real, sort of a bit scary, Mr Dear said.

"I managed to pop my seatbelt off and my window was wide open so I just pushed through in that direction, pushed through all the mud and murky water.

"I saw the light and realised that was upwards and swam up and out the top."

He was in the water for about 20 seconds, and other than a few stitches in his knee, a bit of whiplash and a few bruises, Mr Dear said he was unharmed.

"I'm definitely the luckiest man in Queenstown right now, without a doubt.

"I don't know how I survived, I think I was just holding myself tight in the seat and the seatbelt obviously saved me. I've got a big bruise across my collarbone from it."

Queenstown Lakes District Council harbourmaster Marty Black said the council was discussing with the Otago Regional Council options to remove the ute from the river.

He said it was a tricky job. Using a helicopter was ruled out because of the weight and it could take up to a week to plan the best option.

"It's OK, it's not going to move. The guy was very lucky to get out. He should get a Lotto ticket," Mr Black said.

The Southland Times