Tourists in fatal bridge plunge

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 05:00 05/02/2014
Southland Hospital staff
JOHN HAWKINS/FAIRFAX NZ

FATAL SITE: Southland Hospital staff transfer an injured tourist from the Southern Lakes rescue helicopter after a fatal crash about 30km from Lumsden.

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Five Southland firefighters jumped into the Mataura River yesterday to help rescue tourists trapped in a van after it plunged off a bridge into a river near Athol.

One person was killed and several others injured in the crash at 1.20pm - the third accident within a day to claim a life on South Island roads.

Police said the group included 10 family and friends from Hong Kong. They left Queenstown about 10.30am yesterday and took a detour onto Nokomai Rd to take photographs of the river.

The driver did not escape from the van.

Athol Volunteer Rural Fire Service's Chief Fire Officer Robert Durling said some "shocked" fishermen were trying to help when they arrived at the crash scene.

A crew of five firefighters jumped into the river to help the passengers to safety.

Durling said he did not know how the crash happened.

"All we know at this stage is the van ended up off the bridge in the river . . . police are investigating."

Mossburn Volunteer Fire Brigade chief fire officer Lance Hellewell said the bridge had wooden barriers and there was a drop of about 3m.

A St John spokesman said a woman in her 40s with suspected spinal injuries, and another person with possible head injuries, were flown to Southland Hospital.

A woman, her age unknown, was flown to Dunedin Hospital by helicopter with possible chest injuries.

Senior Sergeant Craig Brown, of Dunedin, said the Serious Crash Unit was investigating.

Earlier yesterday, a man died after his car crashed and burst into flames on State Highway 1, south of Christchurch.

The man, believed to be in his 60s, crashed into a ditch near Parkins Rd, south of Dunsandel, about 9am.

Sergeant Paul Piper said the vehicle flipped, became airborne and rolled before bursting into flames.

Passersby pulled the man from the car moments before it became engulfed in flames.

They tried unsuccessfully to revive him.

On Monday, motorcyclist Paul Kidd, 46, from Karamea, died while being flown to Dunedin Hospital after a collision with a car on Cairnmuir Rd, Bannockburn, about 6.15pm.

The driver of the car was not injured.

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- The Press

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