John Smith was thanking his lucky stars and fast thinking for saving the lives of both himself and his brother one fateful day in March.
The Bell Block man was hauling silage bales in his 44 tonne truck down the treacherous northern stretch of road on Mt Messenger, when he put his foot on the brake pedal and felt it go straight to the floor.
“Everything happened so quickly, there was no time to think really, I just went into survival mode,” John recalls.
He realised if he went any faster he would go over the bank and the probability of dying would be high. Remembering a corner was fast approaching he knew he would have to find a way to slow the truck down before that.
“I had a hell of a job getting the truck into low gear. I did get it to eventually halt but the trailer just kept pushing us. We finally toppled over and skimmed across the road.”
John wasn’t the only one in the cab that March day, either. His brother Graham, who had lost both his legs due to complications from diabetes, was sitting in the passenger seat beside him. When the cab toppled over onto the driver’s side, so did Graham – John reckons his brother might well have been responsible for his 14 fractured ribs.
“He wanted to get out of there but he didn’t have his legs on so he couldn’t kick out the windscreen,” says John with a bit of a chuckle at his brother’s misfortune.
Occupants in the car following were able to smash out the truck’s windscreen and free his brother. John however was not so lucky; wedged into the cab, stuck between the steering wheel and his seat.
Whilst his brother was treated and eventually taken to Taranaki Base Hospital by ambulance, John had to wait for the fire service to free him from his mangled truck. The delay meant his ride to hospital would come courtesy of the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter.
“I arrived at the hospital and was getting stitches in my leg and my fractured ribs fixed up well before Graham arrived in the ambulance.”
The crash hasn’t deterred John from driving his brand new truck. And whilst he’s always made an annual donation to the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust, he reckons this year it means a bit more, knowing they’ve always got his back.
“I tell you what, the rescue crew were excellent that day, I really appreciated what they did for me”, says John.