The highway connecting South Australia and Western Australia was transformed into a runway on Saturday as paramedics responded to a vehicle rollover that left the driver in a critical condition in hospital.

Key points:

  • Emergency services were called to the scene on the Eyre Highway around 1pm on Saturday
  • A Royal Flying Doctor Service plane was called in to retrieve the driver
  • The 53-year-old man was taken to the Royal Adelaide Hospital with life-threatening injuries

A Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) plane was called to the Eyre Highway on Saturday after emergency services were alerted to the crash just before 1pm.

A Toyota SUV rolled along a remote stretch of the Nullarbor Plain in SA, about 140 kilometres from the border, leaving the driver — the sole occupant — with life-threatening injuries.

After touching down on the highway, a retrieval team performed “life-saving procedures on the ground to stabilise the patient”, a 53-year-old man from Newton, the RFDS said.

“It took a truckie to find this guy in his car and he raised the alert with emergency services through Triple 0,” executive general manager of retrievals, Mardi Steere, told ABC Radio Adelaide.

“A nurse, and a fire and emergency services volunteer, drove 100 kilometres to be the first ones on the scene, the Iluka mine dispatched some paramedics from 300 km away.

“In the background, we were working on getting launched, because it was clear we’d have to go and meet them all there, so it was a real team effort.”

A 53-year-old man who sustained life-threatening injuries was flown to Adelaide.(Facebook: Royal Flying Doctor Service SA/NT)

After taking off from Port Augusta, the RFDS Pilatus PC-12 touched down on a stretch of highway that was specially designed to double as an airstrip in the event of an emergency.

Dr Steere said the RFDS worked in collaboration with SA Police, who stopped traffic.

“We would land on a major highway either the Eyre Highway or the Stuart Highway maybe twice a year,” she said.

“Our pilots know exactly which stretch of highway is the place for them to land as a makeshift landing strip.

“We’ve got a couple of places in South Australia where the highway is quite deliberately widened and reinforced and strengthened to be an emergency landing strip.”

The victim was flown to the Royal Adelaide Hospital and the RFDS said he remained critical but was “currently in a stable condition”.

An ambulance at the scene of the crash.(Facebook: Royal Flying Doctor Service SA/NT)