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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.