Monday, August 12, 2013

Missing driver believed to be trapped in car - TVNZ

updated 09:53

Published: 5:23AM Tuesday August 13, 2013 Source: ONE News

Police divers are set to begin the search for the driver of a car which crashed off Maungatapu Bridge in Tauranga.

Five people, including a police officer, were admitted to hospital following the crash which happened at 6.10pm.

Three vehicles were involved in the incident which resulted in one vehicle going off the bridge and into the water.

A male passenger in his 20s managed to get out of the submerged van, but the driver of the vehicle is missing.

A police spokeswoman said it is believed that the driver is trapped in the vehicle, but the vehicle is submerged so that is still to be confirmed.

The police national dive team travelled up from Wellington overnight and will begin searching for the man at approximately 10am.

The rescue

A male police constable stripped down to his underwear and jumped into the water to help the passenger.

Inspector Clifford Paxton told TV ONE's Breakfast when the police officer arrived at the scene people on the bridge were confused and were concerned about the welfare of the passenger.

He said the passenger of the van was in quite some difficulty, and was struggling to stay afloat.

Mr Paxton said the officer jumped into the water and swam 100 to 150 metres from the bridge to reach the man.

"Just as he's arrived the person's gone under water but then popped back up again."

Mr Paxton said the policeman spent quite some time trying to calm the man down.

"Eventually he's been able to calm him down and together they've made their way to the safety on the other side of the harbour.

"They've been in the water for quite some time they were in there for 30 to 40 minutes and upon coming out of the water they're obviously very exhausted and very cold."

Police said the officer had spotted flashlights on the shore from other police members searching and had focused on moving towards those lights.

They were taken to Tauranga Hospital suffering from hypothermia.

A man and a woman in their 30s, and a man in his 40s, were in the two vehicles that remained on the bridge. They were taken to hospital with moderate injuries.

A police spokeswoman said she understood the police officer and the woman were discharged from hospital last night, but three men remain in hospital.

Cause of crash

Mr Paxton said it was not clear at this point what the cause of the crash was.

"The vehicle that was travelling east towards Mount Maunganui has struck an oncoming van that was travelling towards Tauranga, that van has then left the road and entered the harbour," Mr Paxton said.

He told Breakfast crash investigators were at the scene last night trying to determine what had happened.

He said police inquiries will continue today, and they would be interviewing witnesses and taking statements.

The bridge was reopened to motorists overnight with a 50km/hr restriction imposed. It is expected to be closed again around 10am when police divers arrive at the scene.

There are also bridge repairs to be carried out, police said.

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