6 Aug 2009

Women have lucky escape from rockfall

6:38 pm on 6 August 2009

A rescue worker says he is amazed two young women are alive after their car was crushed by boulders falling 20 metres onto a road near Rotorua on Thursday morning.

Their car was buried in debris that nearly reached its roof when the slip came down on State Highway 36 at about 8.30am.

Between 200 and 300 cubic metres of rock fell in the slip and the vehicle's boot and bonnet were crushed by the boulders.

A Tauranga fire officer who attended the scene, Peter Clark, says the car was dwarfed by the deluge of rock. He says the car was three-quarters covered with boulders half the size of fire trucks and the roof and dashboard had partially collapsed.

The women were taken to Rotorua Hospital and later discharged.

Another vehicle careered into a stream along Pyes Pa Road between Rotorua and Tauranga as a result of the slip. No-one in that vehicle was injured.

The Transport Agency is investigating the cause of the slip, after rock blasting to widen the road was carried out last week. The state highway manager for Waikato-Bay of Plenty, Kaye Clark, says blasting equipment has been used in a major project on the road - but not in recent days.

The road is expected to remain closed until at least Monday. Motorists are advised to use State Highways 2 and 33 instead.