Top Energy line workers at the crash scene just north of Puketona Junction. Photo / Peter de Graaf
The driver of a ute that demolished a power pole next to a busy Northland highway allegedly left the scene before emergency services arrived — then asked the motorist who gave him a lift to drop him at his home.
As a result police didn’t have to look long or hard to track the driver down.
The incident occurred about 4.45pm on Monday when the southbound Isuzu ute left State Highway 10 just north of Puketona Junction and collided square-on with a concrete power pole.
The pole fell across the bonnet and cab, causing extensive damage, but the driver was not thought to have been injured.
The crash cut power to 167 households in the Puketona and Oromahoe areas, according to lines company Top Energy.
Police, Kerikeri Fire Brigade and Top Energy line crews responded.
Witnesses told police the driver had exited the ute and hitched a ride south with the driver of a passing van. The van driver later returned to the scene.
The crashed ute had not been reported stolen.
Crashes involving power poles are an ongoing problem in Northland.
In a column written for this newspaper in 2020, Roadsafe Northland chairman John Williamson said 381 power pole and related hazard crashes had been reported across the region in the previous four years.
Forty per cent of the crashes involved deaths or serious injuries. On average each power pole crash cut power to about 500 customers and cost $15,000-$30,000 to repair, he said.
In 2021 at least 62 vehicles crashed into power poles across the region in 2021, prompting police and power companies to urge Northlanders to drive safely.
In that year there were 32 reports of vehicles crashing into power poles and 48 of cars hitting assets such as electricity pillars in Northpower’s Kaipara and Whangārei network.
In Top Energy’s Far North network there were 29 reported crashes involving power poles and 24 vehicle-versus-asset crashes.