An Australian family of five traveling to a ski area in Queenstown managed to escape moments before their borrowed Toyota Land Cruiser burst into flames and tumbled down a steep road.
The four-wheel-drive vehicle contained a full tank of diesel and became a raging hell shortly after the family left.
It is understood the family lived in Queenstown until around two years ago and borrowed a friend’s car to drive to the Remarkables ski area.
The driver declined to comment.
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The Remarkables ski area manager Ross Lawrence said there were five people inside the 4×4 and they were driving down the road around 1.30pm on Wednesday when the engine cut out on a steep bend.
“The car slowed down, or stalled and stopped.”
The driver told Lawrence he didn’t notice anything unusual until the engine stopped.
He let the car back about 20 meters down the hill to a safe stop.
As it stopped, there was smoke coming from the engine.
“He jumped up, looked into the grill and saw flames.
“He told everyone to get out, and they got out quickly.”
He was very quickly engulfed in flames and video taken nearby showed an explosion as he continued down the hill.
Lawrence thought the explosion was one of the tires that burst. It was thought that the vehicle had started to descend the slope because the fire had destroyed the brake cables.
As he drove, he struck an embankment where nearby dry mounds caught fire. He then crossed the road and came to rest against a guardrail, setting fire to the mounds on that side as well.
The driver had just filled the diesel tank, which explained the intensity of the fire, Lawrence said.
Two helicopters and fire engines from Frankton and Queenstown and a tanker from Arrowtown were dispatched to fight the blaze.
Two members of the ski resort staff, members of the fire department, were on the mountain and were able to intervene quickly.
It also helped that a grader was in the road just below the light and the ski resort staff could handle the traffic.
The fire was brought under control quickly, covering about 1 hectare of land, Lawrence said
There was damage to the road surface and the truck was pulled overnight.