Support from near and far

00:00, Sep 14 2013
Tony and Nicky Kaye
STARTING AGAIN: Tony and Nicky Kaye will have to win big at the racetrack to rebuild the barn they lost to fire last month.

Whinnies of terror, the smell of smoke and the intense heat of the flames that destroyed their barn and killed two of their ponies are memories that will stay with the Kaye family forever.

But help has come from unexpected places for the Palmerston North horse racing family who are in the final stages of cleanup, five weeks after fire destroyed a large part of their livelihood.

On the morning of the fire Tony Kaye was woken by his daughter about 3am when she got up in the night and noticed a glow coming from their barn - the building that housed a workshop full of tools and wood for furniture-making, stables, tack, hay and their children's two ponies.

Mr Kaye suffered serious burns to his arm and down his leg trying to get into the barn to save the animals. The intense heat beat him back.

The fire, and the death of the ponies in particular, had hit Mr Kaye, his wife Nicky and their two children hard, and it would be a long time before they recovered from the events of that day.

A practitioner of meditation and yoga, Mr Kaye said he believes that's what had kept him from "losing the plot".


"It's really affected our oldest daughter, she doesn't want to sleep in her room now. She doesn't talk about it a lot, but she had a room on her own but she would rather sleep with her sister."

While the devastated Kayes struggled in the aftermath of the blaze, Nicky's dad, Audie Murphy, stepped up and took control of the cleanup, working all day at the site then heading to his job at night.

He sourced the parts they needed to get their front-end loader back into action, and with some help from Hoult Contractors and Dismantling and Metal Recycling, which both donated time and resources, helped the pair get the site cleared.

"Dad told me a bit of a white lie and said he wasn't working, because I wouldn't have let him do it otherwise," Mrs Kaye said. "He's been instrumental in the whole lot."

But the generosity didn't stop there. Family, friends and neighbours rallied to help one way or another, local businesses held a fundraiser and put the call out for help on social media.

Donations of money, tack and feed supplies even came from people the Kayes didn't know.

The couple have been given a pony, a former stud stallion, which shares the same bloodlines as the ponies they lost, transported to them from Invercargill.

"It just makes you realise there are some really nice people out there, a lot of good has come out of it. It makes you realise there are people out there with really kind hearts."

Initially told the fire started as an electrical fault in one of Mr Kaye's tools, the Kaye's believe it was something more sinister, but nothing has been proven.

Uninsured after premiums became too expensive, the couple will have to train some winners to rebuild.

"With everything, it's probably close to $200,000 by the time I rebuild, then all the machines, the wood, ponies, the mill. I lost a lot really," Mr Kaye said.

"Hopefully we win a lot of races and make a lot of money, that's the only way we'll be able to rebuild."

Manawatu Standard