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Worker’s narrow escape from collapsing roof

By Hayley Gastmeier

[email protected]

A Masterton service station attendant narrowly missed being crushed to death when a car raced into Caltex Solway, wiping out a petrol bowser and ploughing into a support beam causing the forecourt roof to collapse to the ground.

The young attendant only just managed to scramble clear of the car, a black Ford Territory which was traveling at “high-speed”, before it crashed into the pillar about 7.30am yesterday.

Late yesterday police were still hunting for the driver, said to be a Masterton man, who had jumped out of the crashed car and fled on foot.

Video surveillance shows how the staff member had exited the path of the speeding car just six seconds before it came roaring through the forecourt.

The footage shows the worker glancing at the oncoming vehicle and sprinting out of harm’s way.

Caltex Solway owner Kevan Dudson points to the curb which the fleeing driver hit before ploughing across the grass into a forecourt support beam. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER
Caltex Solway owner Kevan Dudson points to the curb which the fleeing driver hit before ploughing across the grass into a forecourt support beam. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

Caltex Solway service station owner Kevan Dudson said his young employee was badly “shaken up” over the incident and was sheltering him from speaking with media.

“He saw it [the vehicle] coming and run. It was literally just a matter of seconds.”

Immediately after the impact the staff member “ran inside to shut everything down,” Mr Dudson said.

“He did all the right things, he turned everything off, made sure none of the pumps could pump fuel, made sure all the electrics were off and no members of the public could get onto the site.

“You never know how someone will react in a situation like that but the staff member did really well.”

Mr Dudson said it was fortunate the crash had happened on a Sunday morning, typically a quiet time for business, and the driver “was quite lucky” he only damaged property and hadn’t killed or injured anyone.

Caltex Solway will be closed for at least a week while repairs to the building are done and the fuel bowser wrecked in yesterday’s crash is replaced.

Mr Dudson said the car had dragged the steel support beam through the forecourt before plunging through a pipe fence and coming to rest on a grass patch in the neighbouring property, next to Four Square Solway.

Four Square Solway manager Bhairav Patel said he heard the “big bang” yesterday morning and thought it was one of the store’s advertising boards being blow by the wind.

“I walk outside and saw it was a huge crash, and fumes were coming from the car engine.

“I didn’t see anyone [at the crashed car] but the Caltex staff member and the police car was there,” Mr Patel said.

“It was really lucky no one was in the forecourt and luckily the car didn’t get the [LPG] tank as well because that would’ve been a big disaster.”

Senior Sergeant Mike Sutton said police had been on their way to a domestic incident in High St, Masterton, and on arrival saw a vehicle leave the address and travel south on High St.

“That vehicle has then travelled approximately 500 metres down High St and then has made a right hand turn at speed into the Caltex, completely loosing control, taking out a petrol bowser, taking out the pillar for the canopy causing the canopy to collapse.

“The vehicle’s travelled across the forecourt and come to a stop on the edge of the forecourt and the driver has then got out of the vehicle and left the scene,” Mr Sutton said.

“There was no vehicles on the forecourt but there was a forecourt attendant who was unhurt but they were obviously quite shocked and shaken up about what had taken place.”

He said the outcome could have been “much worse”.

“At this stage, the best thing out of this is that no one has been seriously hurt but that’s not taking away from the fact that there is going to be a significant impact to the business through no fault of their own.”

Masterton fire station officer Kevin Smith said the driver accelerated the vehicle before veering into the forecourt at high-speed.

Mr Smith said it was evident upon watching video surveillance of the incident that the Caltex staff member narrowly escaped danger.

“He had been at that pump about six seconds earlier.

“[The Caltex worker] could have been killed and we could’ve had a violent explosion. He [the driver] only missed the LPG cylinders by 10 metres. If that had happened, boom.”

Two fire engines from Masterton, one from Carterton and two “precautionary” appliances from Seaview were called to the scene to cordon off and protect the area.

Mr Smith said less than 10 litres of fuel had been spilt.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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