Pair escape as truck topples

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 05:00 29/03/2014
John Smith
ANDY JACKSON/ Fairfax NZ

BRAKE DOWN: Truck driver John Smith purposely toppled his truck onto its side to save his life when the truck’s brakes failed while he was driving on State Highway three down the north side of Mt Messenger.

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John Smith thanks his TV watching habits for saving his life when his truck's brakes failed while driving north down Mt Messenger last week.

The Bell Block man was hauling tonnes of silage bales and was nearly at the bottom of the treacherous stretch of road when he put his foot on the brake pedal and it went straight to the floor.

"I guess I had watched TV programmes where a truck's brakes had failed so I knew what to do," he said.

He knew if he went any faster he would go over the bank and probably die. He knew there was a corner coming up and he had to slow down before that.

"So I put the truck into low gear and that halted it almost dead straight away. Then it started to topple over and it skimmed across the road."

He wasn't the only one in the cab. His brother Graham, who had lost his legs due to complications from diabetes, was sitting in the passenger seat. When the cab toppled over onto the driver's side, so did Graham, becoming entangled more closely with his brother than he had ever been before.

"He wanted to get out of there but he didn't have his legs on so he couldn't kick out the windscreen," said Mr Smith, now removed enough from the crash to have a chuckle about his brother's predicament.

But he was in one as well. Because, although the occupants in the car following the truck almost immediately smashed out the truck's windscreen and freed his brother, Mr Smith was wedged into the cab, stuck between the steering wheel and his seat.

So, while his brother was treated and eventually taken to Taranaki Base Hospital by ambulance, Mr Smith had to wait for the fire service to free him from his truck. That meant his ride to treatment came care of the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter.

"I arrived at the hospital and was being seen to, and so by the time my brother arrived I was well on the way to getting fixed up," Mr Smith said.

The truck driver said he would be back on the road soon and although donating to the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust was something he always did, this year he said he would probably be chucking in a little more than usual.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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