Runaway ute traps woman by legs

22:15, Aug 31 2014
 Robyn Mathisen
TRAPPED: Robyn Mathisen was pinned under a ute for several hours before her husband Robert, left, and son Isaac, 11, came to the rescue, but escaped with just damaged ligaments and a broken ankle. 

Lying face down, both legs pinned underneath her husband's ute, Robyn Mathisen wondered if she would survive.

"My legs went freezing cold, I thought maybe they would have to be amputated, I thought I might die, I didn't know what was going to happen, I thought I just had to accept whatever happened."

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A routine trip to Hanmer had gone horribly wrong when Mathisen, 53, lost control of the ute while closing the farm gate.

She had left the couple's remote North Canterbury property at 7pm last Monday to pick up husband Robert and son Isaac, 11, from Hanmer.

With her own car in for service, the family had driven to Hanmer together for work and school that day. After finishing work, she went home and was to pick the others up later.


She had just driven through the gate at the bottom of the property, pulled the hand brake on and got out to close the gate behind her. When she glanced back, the vehicle was "moving slowly off down the drive".

Mathisen ran alongside the moving vehicle, grabbed the steering wheel and turned it away from the bank.

As she did so, it took off, gaining momentum and crashed into the opposite bank. "It tipped over and I was just, bam, I was trapped face down by both my legs. I couldn't move, I couldn't get out."

With her mobile phone charging at the house, and the nearest neighbour several kilometres away, Mathisen realised she could do little but wait.

Surprisingly, she felt no pain.

"It was just the feeling of not being able to move, I felt that weight on me but there wasn't a huge amount of pain."

There was plenty of time to wonder about her fate.

"My grandad had died a few days earlier and I thought ‘oh maybe I will join Grandad'."

She tried to make herself as comfortable as possible, using her beanie as a pillow, and turning her head towards the open air.

Her chocolate labrador Nugget kept her company, gnawing on a bone beside her.

Thoughts of those crushed in the CTV building came to mind.

"I knew what it felt like for the people in the CTV building and they were crushed under big slabs of cement - that's what it felt like.

Robert Mathisen said he and Isaac made their own way home when Robyn did not turn up.

"I thought she had fallen asleep on the couch."

Friends drove them most of the way, and they walked the final stretch home. When they rounded the corner after wading across the Waiau River, they heard Nugget barking. It was about 9.30pm.

"So we raced around the corner because Nugget is not supposed to be anywhere but with Robyn at the house, and we saw the ute on its side."

While Robert called for help, Isaac kept his mother company.

It was another hour before firemen and the rescue helicopter arrived, breaking the ute windows and cutting off the roof before pulling her free.

At Christchurch Hospital she was found to have damaged ligaments in her right knee and a broken ankle in the same leg.

She felt extremely lucky to have survived her ordeal.

Her husband said she had had another close escape only two years ago.

". . . a horse riding accident where she broke her back and her ankle, and her neck as well. She's of the feline species, I'm convinced. Seven lives left - she better be careful."

The Press