On Friday 04 December 2020 the Police attended a red car sunk in the Waikawa Stream at the river mouth. It had been there for around 24 hours. See The perils of driving on the beach for details.
It was a week of high sea alerts, rough weather, high tides and plenty of rain. For days the car roof could be seen, if you knew where to look and the tide was low enough. Otherwise, there was no way to see it.
Meanwhile the Miraz Jordan from the WBRA Committee corresponded with Horizons Regional Council and Horowhenua District Council, asking about the pollution and safety hazards. It seemed unlikely there would be any way to remove the wrecked car without also losing a digger to soft sand and river.
Finally though on Tuesday, 15 December 2020 the tides dropped, the skies cleared and the sun came out warm, and Horowhenua District Council sent a digger and a ute and trailer to remove the car from the beach.
Work started around 3.30 pm, going pretty smoothly and easily. By about 3.45 the digger was carrying the car across the river to the trailer. Woohoo!
But that’s when the problems began; the next stage of the removal took just over another hour and cost Jeff his trailer. Jeff was contracted by the Council to take the car to the Council yard where number plates and other identifying details would be used to trace the car’s owner and recover costs. He had a very nice, good sturdy trailer big enough for a car.
After being in the river and sea for 11 days the car was full of sand, heavy wet sand. We all know a car is heavy; a car full of wet sand turns out to be too heavy.
The digger operator tried various approaches for lifting the car onto the trailer. At first chains were passed through the windows — the car lifted … and then broke apart, with bits of roof and whatnot flying off. Video: Watch the roof come off!
There were more manoeuvres, more chains, more locations for the chains, a bit of trailer jockeying, more attempts.
Finally, around 4.30 things lined up and the front of the car was lifted so the trailer could come in beneath it.
That went pretty well, but the car needed to go forward, so the back end was lifted and the whole thing shunted forward.
That’s when Jeff’s trailer broke. The weight of the car, with all the sand bent the structure of the trailer. Jeff says he’ll need a new one!
So the car was lifted off the trailer again. It couldn’t stay where it was overnight though as the next high tide would bury it again.
The digger operator carried the car on the bucket up the beach a bit and then switched tactics to get it off the beach altogether: the car was dragged along the beach and up the vehicle entrance to be left below the
Beware Soft Sand warning sign at the end of Manga Pirau Street.
But the story doesn’t quite end there. For one thing the car won’t be staying. It will be removed to the Horowhenua District Council yard, and may in fact already be gone.
There are some quirks too. Speculation was rife that the car was stolen. There were keys in the ignition, but it could still have been a stolen vehicle.
More interesting was the number plate on this red Honda Odyssey. A check of Carjam returned the plate as belonging to a 1999 blue Toyota.
This whole thing was far beyond the normal scenario of someone’s car getting a bit stuck in a soft spot and needing a tow to get out. [Beware wormholes, Stuck in a hole, Vehicle access to the beach, update 24 April 2018, Those Worm Holes] This was strange scenario where wind, rain, swells and tides made it impossible to remove the vehicle for more than a week. No one has come forward to claim the car, and the plates don’t match the vehicle.
If more information emerges, we’ll update you. Meanwhile, beware a bit of glass that dropped on the sand during the removal process, and if you’re driving on the beach:
Beware Soft Sand.