Freak Havelock North street accident could have been a fatal fall

Matt Watson’s first reaction when he tripped on a loose drain lid and fell was to laugh.

Until he realised the steel lid had sliced through his thigh, and out the other side, into his groin.

Doctors later told him, he was lucky he hadn’t “bled out” and died.

Watson had stepped out of a mate’s car in Havelock North, last Wednesday to get a takeaway dinner. He stood on the Havelock Rd drain lid, not realising it was loose.

“I probably fell a metre and a bit, it wasn’t full at the time, so there was nothing in there. The lid stopped me from falling.

”When I fell in, the lid penetrated my leg, my whole leg squashed together, then it exited out of my groin area.”

He said it was only a few seconds later, after feeling pain set in, that he looked down and realised how serious his accident had been.

“I was like ‘oh, we’ll still go get dinner first before we go to hospital’. I was just in shock I think. I had fat hanging out of my leg.”

He only had to wait a short time at Hawke’s Bay Hospital before a doctor told him he had narrowly avoided rupturing his femoral artery and bleeding to death.

“It started bleeding while I was waiting and I thought ‘why is it starting to bleed now?’.

“They said it was real close to the main artery and I could have bled out and died.”

Watson stayed in hospital for four nights, going through two surgeries.

His accident was covered by ACC, but he was told by doctors he would need to take two to three weeks off work.

“It sucks. Losing out on 50-hour weeks. I’m missing out, missing out on a lot of things. My whole leg is just starting to bruise up now. It hurts to even go for a boost in the car.”

He has approached Hastings District Council over the drain cover and asked them to “sort it out”.

Craig Thew, Hastings District council group manager asset management, said he was empathetic to the situation.

“Council staff have been in contact with the man and are very empathetic to his situation as no one likes to see harm caused.”

The council replaced the cover in question last Fridayafter they were notified of the incident.

“The existing lid appeared to be in good condition but had slight damage on the corners. The new lid is in as-new condition and is not easily lifted.”

He said the council will be installing a hinged mechanism on the new cover to prevent the possibility of any accidental lifting of the lid by vehicles.

“We currently do not see a need for a universal change, but we will consider others where they have site factors that create an increased risk.”

He said formal inspections of covers and chambers were done on a routine basis.

The checks were normally aligned to their cleaning schedule and upcoming inspections would help identify those that may need hinges.

He said the council does not know how this particular cover came loose, but they have had incidents of manhole lids lifted or being stolen by vandals in the past.

He said he was not aware of any similar injuries caused by any other incidents involving the drains.

He said the council does not have a specific policy around supporting people injured directly or indirectly by council error.

“Council fulfills any legal obligations it might have, but ACC is the key point of contact for people who suffer accidental injury.”

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