EPISODE 210 ” NEW ZEALAND AIR AMBULANCE NEEDED”
Dateline: Dec. 1992
Place: 90 mile beach, Cape Rainga, North Island, New Zealand
“Christ Almighty…there going to hit us head on!”
WE loved that car…but it was scrap in the twinkling of an eye.
“Christ Almighty…there going to hit us head on!”
Excuse the profanity if you can. People in crisis often appeal to Jesus whether they
are believers or not. Two cars smashing together on a New Zealand near empty
highway should have been deadly. Head on! Head light to headlight…engine to
engine. Glass shattered by heads hitting. Metal folding like cardboard. Blood flowing
like water. Voices screaming for the Almighty. Jesus! Jesus! Both cars held young people
who were fit. Bashed, broken, bleeding … all alive but needing medical treatment
immediately. This was not a good place for a head on collision. Not that
there is ever a good place for that. Andrew Skeoch and Keith Merker along
with two girlfriends had been windsurfing on 90 mile beach on the west coast
of New Zealand’s North Island. Carefree. Two Canadian boys on their chosen
world tour. Two New Zealand girls enjoying the exhilaration of youth. No one
dead but injuries were grievous. Four Kiwis in the other car…girl with broken arm.
“Hello, Air Ambulance! Get a chopper up to tip of 90 mile beach right away.
Car accident. Head on for Christ’s sake.”
“How many hurt?”
“They are all hurt but three girls need to get to Auckland fast.”
“And the boys?”
“Send an ambulance…quick. Two Canadian lads.”
“It will take hours to get there and get back to hospital.”
“We are stabilizing the boys.”
“Who is speaking?”
“Police Officer Clark”
“Are you sure you’re OK?” Any others hurt?”
“Everyone was hurt. Joanne has a broken jaw.
“How did it happen?”
“Looks like one car was rounding a hairpin on wrong side of the road.”
“Sounds like it could have been fatal.”
“Bloody true…lucky the cars were big…some protection. And the kids are fit.”
“Any danger of delayed shock?”
“Don’t think so…that danger was over long ago. They were not
found for a couple of hours. All are conscious.”
‘We’ll send an investigator…mind if a reporter tags along?
“No…get a move on, goddamnit.”
Marjorie and I did not get a phone call from Andrew until a couple of days had
passed. He wanted us to know. Nothing hidden. Feared over reaction.
But both he and Keith were hurt
and in the Aukland hospital. To phone right away, he felt, would cause panic back home.
In the meantime the boys had to make a big decision. They could be flown back to Canada.
Insurance covered that if necessary. Two days passed by and they were mending. Andy had
his nose nearly severed and Keith had the steering column rammed into his lower body. Injuries that
seems bad when their heads went through the windshield. But two days later seemed OK.
CHRISTMAS DAY 1992
“Hi Mom, how are things back home. All ready for Christmas i bet.”
“Oh, Andrew, how nice to hear from you. How is the world adventure going?””
“Bit of a problem. We got in a car accident…”
“But we are fine. Bruised…mending.”
“Any others hurt?”
“Everyone hurt…some worse than others. Joanne has a broken jaw. Claire
has a lot of soft tissue injuries. Both girls and one from the other car flown to
Auckland by air ambulance. The car is a write off.”
BEFORE THE HEAD ON COLLISION
ON Oct. 7, 1992, both of our sons left home. To say it was a surprise is an understatement.
Kevin had taken a job with the American School teaching English in Bratislava, Slovakia.
The Soviet Union had just collapsed and Eastern Europe was in chaos. Most citizens of
Slovakia were looking westward to places like Canada and the United States for help. Most.
Not all. There still remained many supporters of the communist ideal. We felt Kevin was
stepping into a morass. As he was.
Andrew, on the other hand, and his friend Keith Merker had decided to head westward.
“Where are you going, Andrew?”
‘ Across Canada, down to Los Angeles and then
across the Pacific…island hopping to New Zealand.”
“We have some. Get jobs along the way.”
“Sounds a little chancy.”
“if I get in a tight corner, I will call.”
“We will buy wrecks…cars heading for the scrap heap.”
And they did. One car they bought in the U.S. had no side
windows so when they dropped in on Victor Poppa’s place in California he
made them Wooden windows. On a side venture to Arizona they
were advised to get out of the state by a friendly police officer. “Stick around
here with that car and meet a different cop…you will wish you never heard
John Steinbeck, were he still alive, would have added a chapter
in either East of Eden or the Grapes of Wrath.
Island hopping across the Pacific…Figi and so many others…turning
to road kill for supper on one occasion. Never cooked the thing though
the thought seriously about it. Island hopping.
This was the way they ended up at 90 mile beach on the North Island
of New Zealand. Let me tell the story from Andrew’s own words.
“We bought the four door Ford for $2,000 which was all the
money we had. No worries for we felt we could sell it for
that money or more when we were done. It was a great car for
a surfing holiday. We met Joanne and Claire and pooled our
resources. We had the car. They had the food money. Nice
girls who had won a lottery. Surfed all day in shark water..
We drove for miles up the beach…as far north as we could go
to Cape Rainga. Car got stuck trying to clear a sand dune
so we had take a run at the dune to bust out onto the road.
Then one hour later on a hairpin curve a New Zealander was cutting
the curve and hit us dead on. I flew through the wndow cutting my nostril
in half. Keith crumpled the steering wheel with his body and sliced his kneecap.
Joanne broke her jaw on the head rest. Claire had soft tissue injuries to
most of her body. In the other car a girl in back seat broke her arm. Boys
in front were protected by the seat belts. I know..I know..we should have buckled.
We collided at 6 p.m. but did not get help until two hours later. No traffic up
Road ends at the ocean…goes nowhere. Eventually some cars came. Wrapped
girls in bedrolls…chills, maybe shock. Policeman named Archie Clark came and called for an air
ambulance for the girls and ground ambulance for Keith and me. We did not
reach hospital until midnight. Next day there was an article about the crash
in the Aukland Herald.
The investigation concluded we were not at fault (which is easy to see in photos).
We then had to decide whether to head back to Canada or wait out the injuries
and continue. I waited a few days before calling you. Afraid to spoil your Christmas.
Then Archie Clark offered to take us to his farm over Christmas. He found us
jobs and fed us. Boar hunting with his sons. After that we headed for the south island and then over to
Australia. You sent us some money and we made a little washing storefront
windows wherever we went. All we needed was a couple of squeegees and
The girls? We never saw them again although I keep in touch with
Joanne on Facebook. Both girls are married with children as are Keith
and me. I wonder if there are many police officers like Archie Clark.”
FACEBOOK NOTE FROM JOANNE
You havent changed a bit!!!I found my box of travelling stuff in the loft yesterday and thought i would see if i could find anyone! Hard to beleive it was over 18 years ago. It was only last year that i had to have jaw surgery to correct my bite since the crash. Hows your nose?
Do you still see Keith. I see Claire, she lives around the corner from me and our children go to the same school. She is still travelling all over the world as an air hostess for BA. She is married to Andy has Ben whos 10 and Jessica who is 7.
How is life with you? I see from your photo you are still surfing!!!
Love to hear from you
WHEN MARJORIE AND I TOOK ANDREW TO NEW ZEALAND…hardly any danger of a speeding collision
Kiwi birds are hard to find. This one was attracted to the beer bottle between my legs I think.
Campgrounds in New Zealand are wonderful…full kitchens.
That was sometime around 1993. The years when the Soviet Union was collapsing. We were able to experience
the collapse first hand when our other son, Kevin, called to ask us over to Slovakia for a week…which also
turned out to be a grand adventure.