2 cars in landslide plunge on the Otago Peninsula, New Zealand


© nzvega
A section of Highcliff Rd had slipped away as the motorists made their way through the area

Barry McCone has evaded tree branches and wandering stock on the winding route home from work before, but nothing prepared him for his latest encounter.

A claw hammer was used to smash a rear window and free the Milton prison officer from his Ford Falcon, which was one of two vehicles that rolled off Highcliff Rd and into a deep hole caused by a landslide on the Otago Peninsula on Wednesday night.

"I was coming home from work, it was raining still quite heavily and it was foggy. I know that road pretty well, I came around the corner and the next thing I was tipping over, I didn't know what the hell was going on."

McCone thought he may have slid across the road, and braced himself for a 100 metre plunge down the bank. Instead, it was a short fall into a section of road - 15m long and 2m deep - that had dropped away.

"If I rolled one more time I would have been on my way down the hill."

In complete darkess, he wriggled his way to the rear end of the car and tried kicking in the back window to no avail. He grabbed his cellphone - no coverage.

"I was thinking 'God I could be here for a long time', so I leaned on the horn for about two minutes and no one came to that."

Help did arrive moments later, but not quite in the way he expected.

A second vehicle, a green Mazda carrying a father and son, also dropped into the carved out southbound lane, landing on top of his car with a thud.

The duo escaped their vehicle unharmed before seeking help for McCone who remained trapped. Meanwhile, his wife Heather Sadler waited anxiously for his arrival at their Sandymount home on the Otago Peninsula.

"They disappeared and I thought 'shit, I hope they're not going too far, I don't want to be here too long,"

The duo returned with McCone's neighbour who smashed the rear window of the Falcon with a hammer.

He was checked by ambulance and returned home with a cut on his thumb and a few aches and pains.

"It's still there in the hole and I have contacted my insurance company, and they're going to get it up with a tow truck."

Police estimated five sections of Highcliff road had "dropped out", while seven other parts were blocked by landslides.