Dead driver hidden in crashed car

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 05:00 12/02/2014

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Emergency services had to cut a mangled car apart to find out how many people were inside after a horrific fatal road smash.

They eventually found only the driver was in the car that collided head-on with a truck on State Highway 2 at Mangatawhiri, in the northern Waikato, on Monday night.

It comes as a Waikato emergency services veteran warns motorists to take it easy during one of the most dangerous times of the year on our roads.

Nobody knew how many people were in the car wreckage on Monday, Inspector Ian Brooker, of police northern communications centre, said.

"It was completely mangled. It had to be taken away to a yard and cut apart to find out what was inside."

It took emergency services a while to determine the man was the only occupant, Mr Brooker said.

The road reopened at 6am yesterday.

Mangatangi Volunteer Fire Brigade deputy chief Stephen Pogson said there wasn't much they could do when they arrived behind their Mercer colleagues.

The wreckage was underneath the Koheroa Rd bridge that crosses over the new Mangatawhiri bypass, he said.

"I couldn't tell you what make or model [the car] was - it wasn't a pretty sight, let's put it that way."

Serious crashes on the notoriously dangerous stretch of road were common years ago, Mr Pogson said, but a series of safety measures, including a 90kmh safe speed zone, had helped.

He said the last "really bad one" in the area was about a year ago.

"I think that's the first fatal on that new stretch of road."

It's a common scene for Midland Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit team leader, Senior Sergeant Lex Soepnel, after 23 years in the police and 33 as a volunteer firefighter.

The unit investigates serious crashes involving buses, trucks and other commercial vehicles.

Over the period January 1 to 23 there were 52 crashes on the region's roads, nine of them involving trucks which was on par with the same period of last year.

"From a Fire Service perspective, responding to truck crashes is particularly challenging in terms of resources and people," Mr Soepnel said.

"Crash scenes involving trucks are a lot bigger, so it takes that much longer to manage and contain the scene. Heavy rescue equipment often has been brought in from Hamilton meaning the occupants of vehicles can be trapped a lot longer."

From February to May is one of the busiest periods of the year, he said.

matt.bowen@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

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- Waikato Times

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