Heat, tragedy and a bizarre shooting

23:00, Dec 23 2013
Shamel Wanis
ORDERED AWAY: A security guard at the Plaza asks Shamel Wanis to step away from the shopping centre.

As the year draws to a close, we take a look back at the stories that dominated the headlines in Manawatu in 2013, beginning with January. It was hot, dry and a photographer was starting to get on the nerves of some pedestrians in central Palmerston North.

❏ The weather co-operates and about 2000 people party in The Square for the city's New Year's Eve concert. A fireworks display is deployed from the roof of the Palmerston North City Council chambers at midnight.

❏ A taxi driver who hit and killed a drunk man walking in the middle of a Horowhenua road in the early hours of New Year's Day could not have avoided the fatal collision, a coroner finds.

Butcher and father of two Darin Robert Hunt, 29, is hit while walking along Hokio Beach Rd about 2.15am on January 1. He died of multiple impact injuries.

In his report into the death released in December, coroner Garry Evans concludes that the driver who hit Hunt, Stuart William Gibb, could not have changed the outcome.

❏ Rural police area commander Inspector Mark Harrison is made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his work in the police force and community.


Mr Harrison was involved in the emergency response to both the 2010 Pike River coalmine disaster and the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

In both cases, he was the man who liaised with family and friends of victims and potential victims, keeping them informed of how recoveries and identifications were progressing.

❏ The search for missing Palmerston North teacher Alistair Levy is called off after he fails to return from a tramp in Kahurangi National Park, in the northwest of the South Island.

The 54-year-old Palmerston North Boys' High School science and chemistry teacher had planned to join wife Tracy and other family members in Christchurch for Christmas.

❏ A Contact Energy decision to stop supplying propane gas to ballooning festivals in the wake of the Carterton tragedy leaves returning ballooning festival Lift off Levin with some uncertainties.

Fears that Levin may run out of LPG as a result of the amount of gas the balloons need to use to get off the ground are raised, but the festival ends up making a successful comeback over Easter.

❏ Family and friends of drowned Feilding man Jarrett Simeon can do nothing but wait and watch from the dunes as rescuers searched for him in the water off Himatangi Beach. The body of the 27-year-old is found just before 6am on January 6, 100 metres up the beach from the Palmerston North Surf Life Saving Club's headquarters.

Simeon and his partner were swimming outside the flags on Himatangi Beach while on a day out with friends when they got caught in a rip shortly after 2pm on Saturday, January 5.

A coroner's report into the death released in June reveals he had been smoking now-banned legal high K2 before swimming.

❏ A man taking photos of fashionable Palmerston North pedestrians vows not to let verbal abuse, police warnings and water being thrown in his face deter him.

Shamel Wanis causes a stir around the city by standing in the middle of Church St by the entrance to The Plaza creating a gallery of photos titled "101 days of street fashion" which he hopes will be displayed in a city art gallery.

He takes the photos while standing on a traffic island - technically a traffic offence.

After three days of shooting, much public angst, and five formal complaints, Palmerston North police ask Mr Wanis to move on.

"This is my runway," he tells the Manawatu Standard, gesturing to the traffic crossing. "I have to continue because it's my project, it's my baby."

Wanis eventually switches tactics and completes the mammoth project at the beginning of April.

❏ Radius Medical, The Palms managing director and pilot Ralph Saxe's widow, Joanne Saxe, welcomes the January 22 release of a Civil Aviation Authority report into the crash. It finds that a loose screwdriver lodged into the elevator control of the plane left the pilot unable to pull up after completing a slow roll.

Dr Saxe died alongside his friend, chiropractor Brett Ireland, when the Yak-52 plane he was flying crashed at Timona Park in January 2012.

The Civil Aviation Authority report into the crash says Dr Saxe likely made a heroic decision to avoid houses surrounding Timona Park as his plane plummeted towards the ground.

❏ The generous public is first introduced to the remarkable story of Corey Swensson and his skull.

The reason Mr Swensson requires "rebuilding" goes back to the night of September 8, 2012, when he was assaulted and left with a cut lip, grazes to his face and a bruised neck.

Just 25 hours later, at 1am on September 10, Mr Swensson had the first of two strokes that required part of his skull to be removed.

Manawatu rallies around the Swensson family, raising more than $40,000 at a charity auction in April to help Project Re-Building Corey.

❏ Firefighters battle a truck fire, with aerosol cans on board exploding into the air, on State Highway 3 near Palmerston North.

The Courier Post truck driver, Hayden Hakaraia, pulls over on Rangitikei Line about 150m north of Hansens Line just after 7am on January 25, after seeing flames coming out of the sides of his B-train curtain-sider truck.

Chris Tuoro, along for the ride with his friend, says they had travelled from Auckland with a full load of packages and goods destined for Palmerston North.

Neither man is injured, and no other vehicles are involved.

❏ A Kiwi family caught in Queensland's deadly floods tells how they lost their livelihood and their elderly neighbour after their houseboat was swept out to sea in the tail of a cyclone that ravaged the state.

Lynne and Matt Cox, and their son Alex, 8, moved from Levin to Bundaberg in 2010 with visions of a sunny, coastal lifestyle. But, at midnight on January 27, their paradise turns to a nightmare.

Floodwaters wash away their uninsured trimaran yacht, with their belongings still inside, including an urn containing the ashes of Mrs Cox's mother.

Incredible images of their houseboat, Osho, as it is washed away still attached to its mooring in the Midtown Marina on the Burnett River, are among the footage of the disaster broadcast around the world.

❏ Hot weather is the order of the day in late January. A total fire ban is considered across Manawatu as a high-pressure system parks itself over Manawatu, sending temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius.

A rise in thefts from people leaving their windows open overnight to beat the heat is reported. Surf lifeguards ask for help attracting volunteers as people pack the beaches.

Manawatu Standard