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Bravery And Composure Prevents Fatalities

A nominee in the Beaurepaires Highway Heroes programme showed a cool head and averted a potentially disastrous accident.

Late last year nominee bus driver, James Lott, was driving a Pacific Tourways Ltd coach with 28 Japanese tourists on board near Omarama, south of Mt Cook, when a woman driving a BMW collided head-on with the bus on a straight stretch of road. Two people were seriously injured but his driving skills earned him a nomination in the Highway Heroes programme which recognises heroic or humanitarian actions performed by professional truck and bus drivers.

The impact on the front left of the bus, just below Mr Lott’s driving position, destroyed the front of the coach and caused the car to roll off the road.

The driver fought with the steering on the severely damaged coach as it too crashed off the road, through some tussock and grass,. It glanced a roadside power pole before careering through a fence and coming to rest some 100m off the road in an adjacent paddock.

Two of the tourists received serious head injuries. One, a woman, was thrown out of a side window of the bus when it made contact with the power pole. Her serious head injury resulted in brain surgery. The remaining 26 passengers were transported to Oamaru hospital where they were treated for minor cuts and shock.

Constable Greg Sutherland of the Twizel Police said that Mr Lott had shown extreme courage and a calm head to keep the bus under control during the incident.

“His actions saved many lives,” Constable Sutherland said. “I am in no doubt that if the bus had hit the power pole at any greater angle, we would have been dealing with multiple fatalities.”

The driver of the BMW survived the accident and was prosecuted.

The Beaurepaires Highway Heroes programme was introduced three years ago in conjunction with the NZ Police and Land Transport Safety Authority. The winning nominee will receive $5,000 and a trophy. Anyone can nominate a Highway Hero. Forms are available from Police Stations, Beaureapaires stores or nominations can be made by email to highway-heroes@xtra.co.nz

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