THREE prisoners were rescued from an up-turned Corrective Services vehicle yesterday afternoon after the vehicle lost control on the Gwydir Hwy between Ramornie and Lilydale.
The three male prisoners were being transported from Glen Innes Correctional Facility to the Grafton area for court matters when the accident occurred at about 1pm.
Emergency services personnel from NSW Police, Fire and Rescue NSW, the Mount Ramornie Rural Fire Brigrade and State Emergency Service responded to assist in rescuing two of the prisoners who remained trapped in the van.
Both lanes of the Gwydir Highway were shut for almost two hours as rescue efforts continued until the final prisoner was freed about 2.45pm. He had suffered a broken arm.
Police cleared one lane on the highway for traffic to pass before a Crash Scene Investigation Unit that travelled from Ballina closed the highway again to conduct further investigations at 4.30pm.
Coffs/Clarence LAC Acting Inspector Craig Enchelmaier said the van left the road before spinning 180 degrees and tipping over.
"About 1pm a Corrective Services of NSW van was en route to the Grafton area in relation to the conveyance of prisoners to court," Act. Insp. Enchelmaier said.
"Whilst travelling in an easterly direction the van has left the road and collided with an embankment. That has caused the van to spin at a 180 degree turn."
Acting Inspector Enchelmaier said the extent of the injuries to the prisoners was unknown, with all three males conveyed to Grafton Base Hospital.
"The driver of the prison van received minor injuries and he was breath tested at the scene which returned a negative reading. The driver was then too conveyed to Grafton Base Hospital for routine examination."
Acting Inspector Enchelmaier did not rule out any mitigating circumstances, with the Crash Investigation Unit from Ballina expected to continue investigations.
"It is an unusual situation but it is a good example of the co-operation between emergency services to get to the scene so quickly and maintain the continuity of scene," he said.
"SES personnel assisted with the extraction of a male prisoner who was trapped in confinement in the prison van.
"The matter is still under investigation and all avenues will be fully investigated by the Crash Investigation Unit."
Acting Inspector Enchelmaier praised the efforts of both Corrective Services personnel and the prisoners involved in the accident for their assistance with the rescue efforts.
"No prisoner attempted to escape and in fact both the corrective personnel and the prisoners were co-operating with rescue efforts," he said.