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Builders see workmates crushed

AMY MAAS
Last updated 05:00 07/12/2012
Tornado Hawkins Construction
GRAHAME COX/Fairfax NZ

'CARNAGE': Emergency workers at the tornado-hit construction site in Hobsonville.

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A horrified Sam Nuthall saw two of his workmates crushed to death in front of him as a tornado swept through an Auckland construction site.

One of those killed by a pre-cast concrete panel flung down by the tornado yesterday was "the life of the construction site" he said.

Nuthall, a Hawkins Construction worker, had shared a laugh with one of the men he named only as Tom just a few short hours before he witnessed him get crushed by the 15m pre-cast concrete panel.

Nuthall said Tom was the "head guy" for rigging company GGE on the construction site. He would not confirm any other details about the victims.

Tom was sitting inside a truck while another worker was standing just in front when the tornado hit, he said.

A series of the pre-cast concrete panels, each held in place vertically by an angle brace, were thrown down.

"There was about two or three of [the panels] that tipped over and a couple landed on the truck and one landed half on the ground and half on the truck. That was the one that landed on top of the two guys," he said.

A third person also died.

Nuthall said he was "gutted" by the freak accident, which came after a morning of laughs.

"[I'm] just gutted, gutted really. I spoke to him this morning, one of the guys, and he was just how he usually is. He was almost like the life of the site, always having a bit of a laugh. We had a bit of a laugh this morning."
 
Nuthall said he'd been nagging Tom to move a support brace so that he could move his digger and they "had a bit of a chuckle about that".

The construction worker, who was working on plumbing at the site, said he and his Hawkins Construction workers had to cower for three to four minutes during "intense" peaks in the furious storm.

"We saw a big rain cloud come over and there was no warning, all of a sudden this hurricane, it just came through and it was just carnage up there," he said.

Nuthall said he got his workmates together and they "crouched down" to hide between a big block wall and a truck.

"There was debris, metal and sand flying around and we just had to hold on and stick it out," he said.

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