Tourists seriously hurt in gorge crash

Two young German tourists are in Dunedin Hospital - one in a ''critical'' condition - after the driver lost control of their vehicle in loose gravel and rolled in the Cromwell Gorge yesterday.

The accident happened near Italian Creek, 8km from Clyde, about 4.50pm, forcing the closure of State Highway 8 and causing long queues of hundreds of vehicles to form.

Senior Constable Phil Beckwith, of Cromwell, said both tourists - a 19-year-old male driver and his 20-year-old male passenger - had been flown by rescue helicopter to Dunedin Hospital.

The driver was thought to have been wearing his seat belt, but was in a ''quite serious'' condition in the hospital's high dependency unit, Snr Const Beckwith said.

However, police suspected the passenger ''possibly wasn't'' wearing his seat belt, having been thrown from the vehicle as it rolled.

He was in a critical condition in the hospital's intensive care unit, Snr Const Beckwith said.

The accident happened as the tourists headed towards Clyde in a Nissan Serena people carrier, but speed did not appear to be a factor and alcohol was not suspected either, he said.

The pair had been in New Zealand for about a month on a working holiday, but their names would not be released until next of kin had been contacted.

Police had been in touch with Germany Embassy officials, who were working to contact the men's families, he said.

The more seriously injured passenger was flown directly to Dunedin Hospital, while the driver was taken first by ambulance to Dunstan Hospital and later flown to Dunedin by the Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter.

The state highway was finally reopened to traffic about 9pm, although a single lane had been cleared by about 7pm, allowing vehicles to pass.

''Traffic was horrendous - several kilometres back up both ways,'' Snr Const Beckwith said.

Emergency services attended from Clyde, Cromwell and Alexandra, while two rescue helicopters landed in a grass clearing next to the road.

At the scene

Being one of the first people to the scene I can assure you that it was a great relief to see multiple services arrive.
The state of the passenger was "severe" and he needed a great deal of attention. If only one ambulance had been sent he would have taken all the resources because of his condition and the other guy would have had to wait.
As it was, if the first ambulance hadn't been going through the gorge at the same time and turned back I think the other ambulances would probably have been too late to save the passenger.
The ambulance staff in the first ambulance saved his life. I hope this is acknowledged. They did a great job, as did the nurse who was fortunately there at the same time. I'm sure the emergency services know how to handle these events. [Abridged]

Clarification on original query

In case there is any misunderstanding, I have only the very highest regard for all the emergency services and the care and dedication provided mainly on a voluntary basis by those involved in St John, Fire, the Helicopter Trust and the Police. Their work and dedication is superb, and the lives that are saved are numerous.

However, the question I asked was a simple one. Someone must have reported the event very quickly to some branch of the emergency services and presumably it was very quickly ascertained by either the witnesses to the event or the first emergency service person that reached the site 8km from Clyde that two people were involved and injured. The vehicle was filled with mattresses etc. All I asked for clarification on was the appropriate level of resource allocated and who makes the call. It is not an inherent criticism of the services, but if there had been another event in Cromwell, a lot of the services were away and unused.

Emergency services

Russandbev wonder why there was such a response for a "single car" crash. Obviously s/he has never tried to control a scene on a state highway while attempting to keep two critically injured people alive while over 200 kilometres from a base hospital.

If it were not for the help of off duty medical personal more resources would have been required. Ignorance is bliss. It's not like it is in the movies. The victory at this scene for the attending emergency services was that they left our care alive, one just, and we take heart from that.

Are you serious?

When there is a serious crash or other incident, I don't imagine the emergency services in Clyde, Alexandra and Cromwell spend time discussing who is going to attend. They just go and hope someone gets there in time. If it was me in an accident or my house was on fire, that is exactly what I would hope would happen.

In this case, it seems they did require both choppers, and seeing as it was a people-mover vehicle, there may have been up to 7 people inside. It isn't helpful to question the actions of our emergency services, especially when many are volunteers.

I commend the staff in this case and hope their quick and competent actions have saved a life. Kia kaha to the victims.

Over the top?

I wonder why, for this event where a single car was involved with 2 people injured, it was necessary to send 2 helicopters and up to 4 ambulances?  Who made the call for this amount of emergency service resource?