Dead at the wheel: crash saves Waihi man’s life

Noel Ford’s heart stopped on April 14. Supplied photos.

“I actually died at the wheel whilst driving along State Highway 2.”

Eighty-six-year-old Noel Ford had been visiting his latest grandson Josh on April 14, when his heart stopped while heading home.

“Saturday April 14 should have been the day I died,” says the Waihi man.

“I actually died at wheel whilst driving along SH2, 500m north of Wolseley Road near the turnoff to Tanners Point just North of Katikati.”

With more than 70 years of driving experience and thousands of kilometres clocked up, Noel still can’t believe he’s sitting here alive to tell his story about how the flipping of the car saved his life.

Noel and his beautiful wife Rosie had six children together and then went on to raise one of their grandchildren.

Noel and one of his granddaughters, Gina Jones, were travelling along SH2 after visiting family, when Gina’s vehicle flipped and landed on its roof.

“My beautiful Rosie - Noel's wife of almost 60 years - just loved babies and when a new wee soul arrived in our family, we always did our best to try and visit.”

Sadly Rosalie passed away in March 2018, so Noel still does his best to see the new arrivals just as she would have loved too.

“Angels were looking after me that day,” Noel says talking about the fateful day on April 14.

Without hesitation, Noel – who has renewed his driver’s licence every two years without fail - got behind of the wheel with his two small dogs Roxy and Bella, and granddaughter Gina.

All buckled up headed for home.

About 20 minutes into the journey and without warning, Noel’s heart stopped.

“I literally died at the wheel.”

Travelling at 90km/h, the vehicle coasted off the highway and landed on its roof, falling short of about less than a metre off the road.

“It’s a miracle,” says Noel. “The car flipping was what restarted my heart."

He awoke to his granddaughter kicking out the driver's side window.

Both dogs were on leashes and survived unharmed and were held from going on the road. Gina received minor seat belt grazing but was otherwise fine.

Noel, a man of Christian faith, certainly thanks the lord for not ending up being a corpse next to his granddaughter had she driven home.

Noel's family are grateful to have him here longer for him to still be able to love them.

Noel is very grateful to the emergency services that attended the accident and all the staff that supported him at the Tauranga emergency department.

On Noel’s taxi ride the next day from the hospital to his daughter’s home in Tauranga, he shared his story with the taxi driver, who shared the same views that “someone great above us was looking after him and to celebrate each of his life as it truly is a gift”.

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