Son of bridge campaigner injured

Christopher Gay's car after the crash by the Normanby overbridge.
Christopher Gay's car after the crash by the Normanby overbridge.

* Do you think the Normanby realignment is more important than Waiwhakaiho? Comment below.

Less than 24 hours after Kelly Judkins started a campaign to get Normanby's overbridge and corner removed, her son almost lost his life on the notorious stretch of highway.

The devastated South Taranaki district councillor had on Tuesday set up a Facebook site calling for public pressure to ensure the regional funding being considered for realigning Ketemarae Rd goes ahead.

On Wednesday afternoon she heard a car had collided with a van near the bridge and posted that information on the site.

Just two hours later she was horrified to learn the driver was her son - Christopher Gay, 24.

"[I felt] everything, then you calm down and listen to the voice on the phone telling you what's happening," she said yesterday.

Mr Gay remains in intensive care in Taranaki Base Hospital with what Mrs Judkins described as moderate but still serious head injuries.

He is being watched over by his partner, mother, father Robert Gay and his two step-parents on each side.

Still coming to terms with the accident, Mrs Judkins has asked for privacy in light of the reignited debate over project funding for Normanby or New Plymouth's Waiwhakaiho bottleneck.

The most important thing was getting her son back home, she said.

"Family's there. I appreciate everyone's support, but ultimately anyone needs time to heal, they need space to heal, they need energy to heal."

Conditions on the road corner were slippery when the crash happened and eyewitness Dylan Hart said Mr Gay was not speeding. Mr Hart said Mr Gay was following behind him by about three-car lengths when the accident happened.

Mr Hart broke the car window and another man climbed into the passenger seat to reach Mr Gay.

"We had to hold his head in case his neck was broken.

"[That road] should be straight, it would save lots of hassles and accidents."

Mrs Judkins had allied with fellow Hawera-based district councillors Andy Beccard and Mike Powell in a campaign to ensure Normanby gets the available $19 million in government regional funds for a project that has been on the backburner for years.

"The gloves are off, it's time to put pressure on the people involved - the NZTA and Regional Transport Committee [RTC]," Mr Beccard said.

Both again savaged the RTC's February decision to vote that Normanby's plan, which is ready to start, and the undeveloped Waiwhakaiho scheme be ranked as equal importance for funds.

"All you say is Normanby number one, Waiwhakaiho number two," Mr Powell said.

"I've never seen a car mangled like that as a result of a traffic jam at Waiwhakaiho."

Mr Beccard called it "political conniving".

"Trying to be clever is putting our drivers at risk.

"They're playing russian roulette with our motorists in South Taranaki by trying to get more money."

Taranaki Daily News