HELPING HAND: Hunters came to the aid of the driver of this truck, which crashed shortly before midnight on Friday. Photo supplied

A TRUCK driver remains in hospital in a critical condition following a crash in the Waioeka Gorge late on Friday evening.

Emergency services were called to a crash about 15 kilometres into the Waioeka Gorge shortly before midnight on Friday.

The driver of a truck-and-trailer unit, carrying oranges, lost control around two kilometres south of the Tauranga Bridge, overturning, crashing into a bank and catching fire.

Opotiki deputy chief fire officer Rob Sturdy said Opotiki was the first brigade to arrive.

“There were hunters who had assisted the truck driver and the paramedics said their actions saved his life,” he said.

“Attending an incident like this can be pretty horrific, and people need to remember to call on the support that’s available.”

The Opotiki brigade attended with two fire engines and the Matawai brigade with one.

“We also had a tanker from Edgecumbe and one from Te Karaka.”

Mr Sturdy said while the vegetation around the B-train truck-and-trailer unit had caught fire, it didn’t spread far, thanks to it being a wet night.

The Rotorua-based BayTrust rescue helicopter completed one of its final call-outs to assist with the crash.

Base manager Ben Fry said passers-by had initially sent off an emergency locator beacon which alerted the Rescue Co-ordination Centre as reception was poor in the area.

“The 56-year-old Auckland truck driver was driven to Opotiki airfield by road ambulance to meet the waiting helicopter,” Mr Fry said. “He was airlifted to Waikato Hospital in a critical condition.”

The flight was undertaken with the aircrew using night-vision goggles.

The Waioeka Gorge was closed for the remainder of the night and well into Saturday as Gisborne Hiabs and Rowe Motors worked on removing the stricken truck.

Waikato District Health Board spokeswoman Kathryn Jenkin said the man remained in a critical, but stable condition at Waikato Hospital’s intensive-care unit.