The driver of a horror car crash which killed five teens on Saturday night was found conscious lying in the wreckage, telling a member of the public who stopped at the chaotic scene, “How did I survive?”
The 19-year-old driver, on a restricted licence, was still inside the front half of a Nissan Bluebird which had been sliced in half after a high-speed collision with a concrete power pole on a country road just outside Timaru about 7.30pm.
Five of his friends, including one later found by police in the boot of the car, died in the crash. They were Javarney Wayne Drummond, 15, Andrew George Goodger, 15, Niko William Hill, 15, Joseff Alan James McCarthy, 16, and Jack Graeme Wallace, 16, all of Timaru.
Melissa Bryce, a 34-year-old single mother of three, was driving from her home nearby into Timaru for a night out with friends as a sober driver when she came across the carnage on Seadown Rd.
Niko Hill. Photo / Supplied
Another motorist had stopped and waved her down. They were already on the phone to 111.
Bryce, a property manager trained in first aid, pulled over and rushed to see what she could do.
In the dark, with no streetlights, it was hard to establish just what had happened.
The first thing she saw was the rear half of the car.
She saw two people in the back.
Melissa Bryce was first on the scene of Saturday night's crash and helped the driver, who was the only survivor. Photo / George Heard
She called out, asking if anyone could hear her. Nobody responded.
“Just by looking at the scene you could tell they hadn’t survived,” Bryce told the Herald from her home today.
But from somewhere in the darkness behind her, a voice said: “How the f*** did I survive this?”
“That’s when I realised there was a survivor,” Bryce said.
Andrew Goodger. Photo / Supplied
She went back to her car to grab her phone, wanting to use it as a torch.
After turning it on the scene, she saw the front part of the car.
The driver was still in the vehicle. She is unsure if he had a seatbelt on.
She went up to him and introduced herself and asked if he realised what had happened.
Bryce asked the driver, who was clutching his cellphone, to turn off the car’s ignition.
“He was in shock, you could tell,” Bryce said.
“He was able to tell me that, yes, he had been in an accident and then kept saying, ‘How did I survive?’.
“I just kept talking to him, asking his name, his age, where did he work, what were the plans for tonight, and everything like that. Just making sure he made contact with me, to keep him awake.”
Javarney Drummond, at age 12. Photo / ODT
She asked if he was in pain. He replied that his side was hurting and she made sure he stayed still.
“This is a situation you never want to come across but you just do what you need to at the time,” she said.
She was wary that the car, which was still running, could have caught fire.
“I didn’t really think what could’ve happened to me at that time but I did at the same time, I was always observing the surroundings.”
She told the driver emergency services were on their way and they would get him out.
Seeing the phone, she asked him if there was anyone he wanted her to contact – and he said his mother.
Inspector Dave Gaskin with the wreckage of the car. Photo / George Heard
“I didn’t sugar-coat it, Bryce said. “I told her that he had been in an accident and that she should safely make her way to the site.”
Police and firefighters turned up within minutes, followed by the driver’s mother, with Bryce meeting her there.
Looking back on events, Bryce is stunned that the driver somehow survived the smash.
She feels for the driver, who “has a long road ahead of him”, and hopes that she can see him again.
“I know it would probably do him some good,” she said. “I do sympathise with everyone involved in it, even the driver, because I know he did not mean to make a mistake like that.
“I could tell he had remorse in his voice when he was talking to me, you could hear it.
“I do believe that he did make a stupid mistake.”
Bryce has good support around her and finds talking about her experiences is helping her deal with what she saw.
“I am proud of how I acted, which was the way that I think you should in a situation like that. You have to be calm because everyone else around you is not.”