Dead 62-year-old Blenheim rugby ref named

DIED ON FIELD:  Marlborough rugby referee Peter Mills.  Mills died while refereeing a junior rugby game in Blenheim on Saturday.
DIED ON FIELD: Marlborough rugby referee Peter Mills. Mills died while refereeing a junior rugby game in Blenheim on Saturday.

A rugby referee who died during a junior rugby game in Blenheim on Saturday was 62-year-old Koromiko man Peter John Mills.

Mills collapsed after suffering cardiac arrest while refereeing an under-13 club match at Lansdowne Park, in Mayfield, about 11am.

Bystanders started CPR until ambulance crews arrived and took over.

Sergeant Jason Munro, of Blenheim, said CPR was performed for nearly an hour, but Mills could not be resuscitated and died on the field.

Mills, a semi-retired dairy farmer, had been a member of the Marlborough Rugby Referees Association for more than 30 years. In 2004, he was made a life member.

He was refereeing an under-13 game between Renwick and Central when he collapsed about 10 minutes into the game.

Tasman rugby chief executive Tony Lewis said the entire Marlborough rugby community was devastated by Mills' death.

Mills was incredibly passionate about rugby refereeing and was a key part of the Marlborough referees association, he said.

"It's just a tragedy for him, his family and the rugby community," Lewis said.

"Rugby's lost a bloody great fella."

Mills refereed junior rugby every weekend during the season and was very involved with the allocation of Marlborough sub-union referees.

"It's really hit the referees hard.

"He was a glue among the referee association," Lewis said.

"Our condolences and thoughts are with the family."

Two St John ambulance crews, a St John first response vehicle and a fire truck were at the scene.

St John Marlborough territory manager Murray Neal said onlookers had done everything right.

Bystanders performed CPR for about six minutes before ambulance crews arrived and continued CPR for another 40 minutes.

"The whole chain worked really well," Neal said.

Mills was not moved from the pitch while ambulance crews tried to resuscitate him.

There are no strict guidelines on how long to try to resuscitate a patient, Neal said.

Because Mills was not elderly and was in good physical condition, CPR was given for 50 minutes in total.

"We just did everything we possibly could," Neal said.

It was a very public area but the priority was the patient, he said. He was grateful to members of the public and the fire crew who assisted.

"A difficult and emotional situation was handled very professionally."

Renwick under-13 coach Pete Reed said the young players were moved off the field immediately after Mills collapsed.

He said the union had moved quickly to offer the players support and counselling.

Marlborough rugby sub-union board chairman Hamish Macdonald said the union offered its condolences to the Mills family.

Mills had put a lot of effort into refereeing in Marlborough over the years, he said. The union would make sure support was available for those who needed it.

The death has been referred to the coroner.

The Marlborough Express