A man has died after a fallen tree slammed onto his ute in a freak accident on the M1 Princes Motorway on Wednesday morning.
A large gum tree on the elevated eastern roadside at Cataract snapped off near its base about 9.20am, as winds gusting up to 90km/h whipped the region.
The tree fell directly onto a southbound ute, crushing the cab and injuring the 28-year-old driver.
Coal truck driver Robert Tindall was travelling about 150 metres behind the Toyota Hilux and couldn’t avoid driving over the tree branches and the spilled contents of the ute tray.
“I saw out of the corner of my eye the tree starting to [tilt], then it just fell straight on top of the car,” Mr Tindall said.
“The ute, obviously because [the driver] didn’t know what happened, has hit the concrete barrier pretty hard.
“It was like it happened in slow motion, then - bang.
“I ran over his new ladder.”
Emergency services freed the trapped driver from the wreck and NSW Ambulance paramedics spent about an hour attempting to revive him on the roadside.
A rescue chopper landed on the motorway shortly after 10am but was not required.
The accident caused the closure of all southbound lanes and caused lengthy traffic delays. The lanes were reopened at 11.10am after a large number of RFS personnel worked to cut up the tree and clear it from the roadway.
A woman who was travelling in a car behind the ute was left shaken after witnessing the crash.
"He [the ute driver] did nothing wrong,” she said.