Eileen Wineera in hospital with her fiance Bernard Manaena. PHOTO/LISA URBANI

Crash survivor thankful for community support

LISA URBANI
lisa.urbani@age.co.nz

When rural relief postie Eileen Wineera was delivering post near Castlepoint this month, she had no idea she would plummet 15 metres off a cliff and survive.

Two Mondays ago, it was a calm day, the weather was fine, and Wineera, was doing the job she loved, meeting people and driving around the countryside towards the coast, delivering the mail in the familiar red ute she affectionately calls ‘Red’.

As she slowly approached a bend on the narrow coastal Mataikona road, known as Suicide Rock, she hit a soft sandy patch and tried to correct a skid by braking.

This caused her vehicle to slide down a steep drop.

“All I thought about was my fiance Bernard and our son Carlos.

“I was sure the car was going to flip, and I thought okay this is it, I’m ready.”

By a miracle – and as Wineera puts it – “a guardian angel must have been watching over me” – the ute stopped on the rocks below.

The airbags did not deploy, thankfully, as that might have caused her serious injury, but she must have briefly passed out because when she came to, she was parked on the rocks and the ocean was coming towards her.

The water was just below her knees as she got out and grabbed her phone, stumbling to the sand.

A passing logging truck driver heading towards Pak Spur saw ‘Red’ on the beach.

He arrived there at the same time as ‘Porky’, a local who was heading out from Mataikona.

Realising what had happened, they scrambled down the bank to the shocked and dazed Wineera.

She was very grateful to both the truckie [who left after he was sure she was okay] and ‘Porky’, who waited with her until the police, ambulance services, firefighters, and the rescue helicopter got there.

Wineera’s sister-in-law Gerri was on the other side of the Tinui Valley also delivering mail.

She went to the scene immediately, thankful that her sister-in-law appeared unharmed, and cheekily asked her if she managed to get any paua while she was down on the beach.

Wineera’s twin sister Bennie arrived before the helicopter, having driven from Masterton, worried about her sister.

The ambulance crew was concerned Wineera might have a neck injury as she had a cervical fusion 20 years ago, and saw to it that she had a neck brace, but also called the rescue helicopter as a precautionary measure.

She had no visible bruises or injuries, but she was shaking and shivering from being in shock.

Parcels from the ute were later recovered and seemed to have suffered no serious damage, despite the dramatic 15m drop.

The helicopter ride was a first for Wineera, with an American paramedic and Canadian pilot.

“The helicopter was noisy, I was hanging on for dear life”, she said with a big smile.

Once in Wellington Hospital, she was well taken care of by all the doctors and nurses – many of them from different countries – declaring them to be “awesome”.

Her worried fiance Manaena, was at her side when she heard she had a concussion.

Surviving a near fatal crash was a shock to Wineera’s supportive family who came from all over New Zealand to visit her.

She and Manaena are stoic and cheerful despite her now being in the rehabilitation ward at Wairarapa Hospital where she is undergoing occupational therapy to help her with her memory loss, and vision and co-ordination problems.

She wanted to thank everyone who had helped her in recent weeks.

Manaena said, “we are taking one day at a time, I just want to make sure my wife is okay”.

He said he hoped that the council would fix the road and put up a sign to warn people of the dangers.

Sadly, due to covid-19 restrictions, Wineera’s two older children who live in Melbourne would not be able to visit her for some time



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