A police sergeant has described an incident involving two Eaglehawk brothers over the weekend as the “closest brush with death” he has seen in four decades in the force.
The men were driving a Mazda utility north on the Gisborne-Bacchus Marsh Road on Saturday morning when a roadside gum dropped a thick branch directly above them due to the strong winds, Gisborne Sergeant Len Van Andel said.
The veteran officer said the sharp eyes of the passenger and deft driving of his brother behind the wheel saved the pair from almost certain death.
“If he’d not braked in time I would have attended a double fatality,” Sergeant Van Andel said.
“The passenger just quickly caught in eye this branch descending – it had snapped off and was still in the air rapidly descending – and he’s screamed to his brother ‘tree’ and the driver’s spotted it too and slammed on the anchors and gone into a skid, a controlled skid.
“The branch, in diameter, was every bit of 40 centimetres – it was large – and it’s totalled the bonnet of the car.
“One only has to slightly use their imagination to understand the probable fatal consequences if that branch had hit the passenger cabin.
“The driver’s done a brilliant job – he’s either done defensive driving courses or he’s incredibly ‘arsey.’
“Those guys were microseconds, absolutely microseconds away from death.”
The sergeant said the men were “shaken and rattled” but unhurt by their near-death experience.
“If that fella is not religious he’d want to take it up now,” Sergeant Van Andel said.
“Because by the grace of God he was saved.
“In my time in this job that was the closest brush with death that I’ve seen, that's for sure.
“He appreciated it as well.”
Sergeant Van Andel said the incident was a reminder to all motorists of the dangers of driving in extreme weather events.