'Van Driver Plunges into Parked Cars'


SEVEN cars were shunted into a mangled pile after a Napier carpetlayer, who had worked a 12-hour stint, allegedly fell asleep at the wheel of his van and ploughed into them.

The driver of the van, his son and a third worker were heading back to Napier after working on a job in Wainuimomata when their van, travelling north of Ngaumatawa by-pass road, careered across the road and catapulted over a verge yesterday. It struck one vehicle at the Solway railway station, southwest of Masterton, causing a domino effect.
Police believe the van's driver fell asleep at the wheel. It was travelling in a 100km/hr zone and there was no evidence of any attempt to brake.
Sergeant Mike McRandle said it was a miracle that no one was badly injured. A passenger in the van suffered minor injuries. "It was eight o'clock in the morning and all the commuter trains had gone. Any earlier, and it would have been a potential disaster zone."
Patricia and Chris McDonald's four-wheel drive was one vehicle destroyed.
"Chris gets the first commuter train, about 5.50am, and he sits in the car waiting till the train approaches. It is hard not to think if this had happened an hour or two earlier, he would have been dead. "
Mrs McDonald first heard of the crash when she got a call from her husband, who works in Wellington, saying he had an e-mail mentioning a crash. He asked his wife to go to the station to check. "When I got there, the car was gone and when I got to the wreckers. I got a shock," she said.
Inquiries into the accident are continuing. No decision had been made on possible charges.

©2004 Fairfax New Zealand