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Crashes continue: No rest for first responders

Teenagers that survived a 40-metre plunge down a bank – mere days after the region was rocked by a double fatality on our roads – have left emergency personnel incredulous.

Emergency services, including two rescue helicopters, responded to the crash on the Masterton-Castlepoint Rd at 2.25am on Saturday.

Wellington Free Ambulance confirmed one patient in a serious condition was flown to Wellington Hospital, while two people suffering moderate injuries were taken by ambulance and helicopter to Wairarapa Hospital.

Emergency personnel said at least one of the vehicle’s occupants had a broken femur, while others were suspected to be suffering broken ribs and injuries to their lower legs.

The car reportedly left tyre tracks 200m before the Castlepoint transfer station on the Masterton side of the hill when it veered off the road.

It travelled about 30-40 metres into the gully before coming to a stop.

Fire and Emergency initially responded with a specialist ‘line crew’, however, it was stood down, with Masterton Fire Brigade carrying the injured occupants to the road.

Senior firefighter Tony Gibbs said the crew managed to “sidle up the hill” with the patients using a hard-backed stretcher carried by at least six people.

“They are bloody lucky they survived. The car pretty much cleared a culvert and missed a whole bunch of waratahs.”

He said the car was completely stoved in at the front.

“You look at that and wonder ‘how did they survive?’ Sometimes you just shake your head.”

The single-vehicle crash was one of multiple on the region’s roads over the weekend, with emergency services responding to a pile-up on the Remutaka Hill Rd near the site of a fatal crash only days earlier.

The three-car nose-to-tail at 6pm on Friday, closed the hill road in both directions for at least an hour while emergency services attended.

One person was taken to Wairarapa Hospital with minor-moderate injuries.

The road reopened under stop-go traffic control shortly after 7pm.

Emergency personnel said the crash happened in the northbound lane about half a kilometre from Wednesday’s fatal crash near the No. 2 Bridge.

Police also confirmed reports of a two-vehicle crash on Kahutara Rd at 8.45am on Sunday.

Emergency services found one car flipped on its side, but said there were no reports of injuries.

Contractors feeling the pressure

Two crashes, one fatal, have seen commuters’ arterial route to Wellington close for several hours in recent days, leaving roading contractors reeling, not only from the incidents, but abuse from motorists.
South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] Fulton Hogan contractors, tasked with closing the Remutaka Hill Rd in response to a fatal crash on Wednesday morning, were left shaken by the incident – shortly followed by a second fatal crash on Kokotau Rd.
On Friday evening, the Remutaka Hill Rd closed again for an hour after a three-car pile-up on the
Featherston side of the hill.
SWDC roading manager Tim Langley said responding road crews had little time to prepare for such incidents, and the public’s response could either help or hinder the situation.
“It’s just getting there as quickly as you can, protecting the emergency services, and protecting the victims.
“The Fulton Hogan guys who had the road closed [on Wednesday] received some abuse from motorists asking why is the road closed. They aren’t closed for the hell of it.”
Langley said serious crashes weighed on contractors, who were also tasked with maintaining the roads, with some left wondering ‘what ifs’.
“From a council staff point of view, as soon as you hear that there has been a fatal or serious injury, you’re thinking, ‘Did I do something wrong? Could I have done things better?’”
Langley said coroners’ reports and police reports would shape how councils and contractors changed or maintained the roads in the future.
He said counselling and debriefing for roading staff was a high priority after serious crashes, with some describing the jobs as “harrowing”.
“They are the forgotten heroes who are there to help and assist emergency services.”

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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