Hunter died doing what he loved most

CALEB HARRIS
Last updated 05:00 30/07/2013
Russell Coker

RUSSELL COKER: 'Lived to go pig hunting'.

Russell Coker
LOREN DOUGAN/ Fairfax NZ
FINAL HUNT: Barbara Coker says her husband Russell Coker was a father figure to troubled young men he introduced to hunting. She is cuddling Patch, who was with him when he died.

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A man whose poor health could not keep him away from hunting died of a heart attack while looking for pigs from a quad bike.

Carterton's Russell Coker, 64, was waiting for a kidney transplant, receiving dialysis and had had a triple heart bypass, but felt well enough on Saturday to leave home at 4.30am and head for a pine plantation near Tinui, 30 minutes' drive north of Masterton.

He was having trouble with fluid retention because of the dialysis but doctors told him he could hunt if he felt well and stayed on his bike, his widow Barbara said.

At the plantation he met a friend of over 40 years, Ron Arnold, 72, and the son of another old friend, Bryce Wishart. The three headed into the forest.

Mr Arnold said Mr Coker seemed "fine". The plan was for him to stay on his quad, control one of his dogs and spot for the other two hunters.

They were riding up a track when it appeared he had a heart attack and slid from the bike, Mr Arnold said.

He and Mr Wishart started CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation but Mr Coker did not respond.

Mr Arnold headed out and called emergency services at 8.30am.

Tinui and Masterton emergency services and police attended, as did the Westpac rescue helicopter, but it was not required as a local helicopter firm assisted, Masterton fire station officer Doug Flowerday said.

Investigations were continuing but there was not thought to be anything suspicious about the death, police said yesterday.

Mrs Coker said her husband of 39 years "lived to go pig hunting", loved being in the bush and treasured his five dogs.

Mr Coker, born in Upper Hutt, was a father figure to troubled young men he introduced to hunting, Mrs Coker said. "Even if he was crook he'd help you."

The couple met at the Naenae Hotel.

Mr Coker mainly worked as a driver, including stints with the Petone meatworks, Lower Hutt City Council and a tree-trimming company.

His kindness stood out when he gave more food to families of striking workers than he was supposed to, Mrs Coker said.

Driving for the council in the 1970s, Mr Coker received an award for bravery when his truck caught fire. "He drove it away from the houses, then he got out and it exploded . . . he didn't want anyone to be injured."

Her husband was well liked for his refusal to let problems get him down, she said.

An accident in 1972 at the Exide Battery plant tore four fingers off his hand; Mr Coker wrapped them in a tea-towel and drove himself to hospital. Later, he and a friend crept out a hospital window and went to the pub, she said.

Ron Arnold said Mr Coker was a good union delegate and generous friend who loved debating politics. "I miss him already - he used to ring me about three bloody times a day to see if I was all right, because I'd had a heart attack too."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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