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Lucky to be alive

A Gisborne woman could not believe her eyes when she returned to a crash site in the Waioeka Gorge yesterday.

Santana Kepa said this morning it was amazing the car occupants were all alive.

“When I went back to get our clothes I honestly could not believe we survived — the car was so crushed. My sister-in-law and I are not skinny peeps and it was a small hole we slid out of,” she said.

Santana, her seven-year-old daughter, her sister-in-law and brother were on their way back to Gisborne after attending her uncle’s funeral in Ruatoki.

It was just past midnight yesterday morning and the three passengers in the car were asleep when her brother, who was driving, fell asleep.

The car left the road at the Gisborne end of the Waioeka Gorge, at the bottom of Traffords Hill and plunged 20 metres down a bank.

“I woke up when the car stopped and heard my sister-in-law and brother screaming. I was wondering why they were screaming. I could smell burnt rubber and guessed we had crashed. I came to and was trying to wake up properly and told them to stop screaming so I could listen for my baby. A couple of seconds later she woke up and started screaming out for me.”

During the crash, Santana and her seven-year-old daughter had landed on her sister-in-law in the back seat.

“I was closest to the door and it wouldn’t open so I kicked it about four times and a branch broke so I could slide out. My baby slid out after me.”

With her sister-in-law suffering from a crushed back and leg, she left her brother in charge at the car and started climbing the bank with her daughter.

“She flew up — it took me about 20 minutes.”

The pair stood on the side of the road to wait for help and could not believe eight cars and two trucks just drove past.

“Then my friend Juvana-Marie Rangi recognised me and stopped. I asked her to take my daughter to my sister’s because she was OK and she called for more help.

“Then a guy Ben from the Matawai Fire Brigade stopped and also went to get help.”

Santana waited on the side of the road until emergency services arrived.

A fire crew helped the injured woman (sister-in-law) using ropes and a ladder.

Santana said she was discharged yesterday afternoon and was recovering at home.

When Gisborne woman Santana Kepa and family members returned to the site where they crashed in the Waioeka Gorge yesterday, she could not believe her eyes. “I honestly could not believe we survived — the car was so crushed.” The car had plunged down a 20 metre bank just after midnight yesterday morning. Only one of the four people in the crash was injured and she was discharged from hospital yesterday. Picture supplied