21 May 2016

Car roof rescue one of hardest ever - crew

9:46 pm on 21 May 2016

Winching three people from the top of their car in a flooded river was one of the hardest callouts he's ever had, a rescue helicopter crew member says.

A helicopter lifted three people to safety from the roof of a car that plunged into a river in Wairarapa early this morning, killing one man.

Police have named the man who died as Benjamin Young, 35, from Lower Hutt.

Police said the car was driving towards Masterton along a straight road when it failed to take a turn onto the bridge, crashing through a fence and into the Waipoua River.

The helicopter's winch operator, Julian Burn, said the car was almost completely under water and there was only a tiny area to drop the paramedic onto.

"If you can imagine the smallest possible space, I had to try and get our paramedic onto that roof as well without knocking them into the river from a height of about 80 foot.

"Not only that, but they would have had to contend with the downdraft from the helicopter itself."

He said the crew then had to pull up the three injured people in the dark, while being buffeted by strong winds.

The injured were taken to Wairarapa Hospital in Masterton suffering from hypothermia and fractures, and are in a stable condition.

Masterton acting sergeant Tony Matheson said the car was going along Paierau Road towards Masterton when it crashed through a fence and plunged into the river.

Rescue helicopters, police and fire officers were alerted by a local farmer at about 4am.

The three survivors, two women and a man, were stranded on the roof of their car in the flooded river for about about two hours before being rescued.

The car was to be winched out by a crane after it was swept about 50m downstream.

Police said it appears the car was speeding before the crash.