Occupants of camping vehicle scramble to escape blaze

PHOTO: FIRE AND EMERGENCY NEW ZEALAND
PHOTO: FIRE AND EMERGENCY NEW ZEALAND
A pair of freedom campers are lucky to be alive after their failing vehicle burst into flames at the top of the Otira Viaduct on Saturday afternoon.

The two occupants just had time to pull off the viaduct lookout road and get out before the vehicle went up "in a ball of flame".

Both the Kumara and Arthur’s Pass fire brigades were dispatched about 4.20pm to Deaths Corner, near the Otira Viaduct lookout, after the overheating vehicle suddenly caught fire.

Kumara fire chief Garry Lindbom said the two occupants were lucky to be alive.

"She went up in flames — absolutely burnt out. They just had time to bail out.

"She must have gone pretty quick. It was completely burnt out by the time we got there, even the tyres."

The occupants lost everything including their passports and wallets, apart from "the clothing they were standing in".

The station wagon had at some point been converted for freedom camping, including a gas cooker. The fire caused the gas canisters to explode.

The vehicle had been having mechanical issues and the visitors had taken it to a West Coast garage before deciding to drive on towards Canterbury.

"They were told they couldn’t get it fixed here," Mr Lindbom said.

Arthur’s Pass fire chief Nic Manery, said fortunately the campers were travelling in tandem with family who had another vehicle, and picked them up. 

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