A double-decker bus which slipped off the edge of Carsons Road on Saturday could not have come closer to disaster.
About a dozen people were on board the Fullers Hop On Hop Off service when the driver pulled the bus to the left before making a right-hand turn into a driveway.
The left wheels of the bus slipped off the road-edge above a steep bank and the bus ended-up balanced precariously on its chassis.
Shaken passengers escaped by dropping down on to the bank via the front door before clambering up to safety.
The drama happened at a turnaround point outside Waiheke Airfield, about 250m past the entrance to Batch Vineyard, which the buses have used without incident since the service began.
Passengers walked to Batch Vineyard’s restaurant to recover. Operations manager Felix Bijl said they were “a bit startled” on arrival but soon recovered.
“After a few minutes they were more amused than shocked -some of them thought it was a bit of an adventure,” Mr Bijl said.
“We offered them the use of our shuttle to get back to their destination.
“The bus driver was very apologetic.”
Fullers was still investigating as Gulf News went to press but CEO Douglas Hudson said there was no evidence that days of heavy rain had made the road unsafe.
“Pending the outcome of the investigation it’s fair to say the bus has moved too far to the left,” Mr Hudson said.
Mr Hudson said the driver was offered counselling but had returned to work.
The company was reviewing its use of the turnaround area. A crane was hurriedly brought from Auckland to raise the bus back on to the road. The bus was undamaged.
Mr Hudson said the company took the incident very seriously. Services were suspended on the Carsons Road route for the rest of the weekend before resuming on Monday.
But local residents say the road is simply too narrow for double decker and coach buses and the service should cease or be replaced with smaller buses. Warren Eade, who lives on Musson Drive, says the buses are far too big for several roads on the island’s winery trail.
“I, my wife and my neighbours have all had close calls,” Mr Eade says. “They come around corners well over the centre line. I’ve had two near accidents where I’ve had to come to a complete stop and pull off the road almost into the bank.
“I’ve spoken to Fullers and their response is that it’s a popular route. But those buses are not suitable for these roads.” • Geoff Cumming