Trench slip fatal despite speedy rescue

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 05:00 29/05/2014
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FATAL SLIP: Michael Kevin Haines, 34, died after he was buried alive in a drainage ditch near Matamata.

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Rescuers did everything they could to save a father, husband and entertainer buried alive on a dairy farm, a witness says.

Matamata man Michael Haines, also known as Djdfuse, was working as a contractor on a Rapurapu Rd property on Tuesday when he went into a freshly dug trench to work on a pipe join.

As he bent over, "a large slip" buried him, said Sergeant Graham McGurk, of Matamata.

"The digger operator saw what had happened and managed to dig the victim out to the point where his head was clear before he ran to get assistance from a nearby farm and construction workers."

The farm owner, who did not want to be named, was working in a cowshed with other staff at the time. There was also another contracting crew nearby, working on a separate project.

The farm owner said there was "nothing casual" about what unfolded next. "It was very fast response - anybody in that situation is going to put all they have into getting help."

Everyone rushed to grab shovels before sprinting the 200 metres to where Haines was trapped.

"Mike's head was obvious but it was a matter of identifying how he was laying and digging as carefully and as quickly as possible to try and recover him.

"The boys there were doing such an excellent job - there wasn't panic, from what I could see it was a very controlled situation. They were working well with no hysteria, just busily doing their job."

There were a number of rescuers, perhaps five or six, the owner said.

"The people involved in trying to recover Mike, they were just incredible. They gave him every opportunity to survive."

McGurk said the rescuers managed to free Haines but his condition deteriorated.

Emergency services were called at 12.30pm and ambulance staff tried to resuscitate him until a rescue helicopter arrived to fly him to Waikato Hospital.

But they could not revive him and Haines died at the scene.

A WorkSafe NZ team has begun an investigation and police are assisting. The incident has also been reported to the coroner.

Haines' mother, from Tokoroa, said that after some discussion the family decided not to speak publicly.

Djdfuse was a regular entertainer at Trac Sports Bar in Matamata and the owner, Dave Fabling, said Haines was a permanent fixture since they took over 16 months ago.

"We've become pretty good mates and all the staff know him really well," Fabling said yesterday.

"He just sort of loved life - a really fun guy.

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"Even when he wasn't doing a gig, he'd come and chat and see who was around."

Haines was also a "big family man", Fabling said.

He also "loved to party" and was due to play at Trac tomorrow night.

Fabling is planning a tribute night next Friday with friend and fellow disc jockey Tiny.

Online tributes were also paid to Haines.

Toby Rhys wrote: "All the memories we had bro, partying it up in [Tauranga], to the Waihi Beach hotel gigs and even the [private] partys on my deck . . . You were the man bro always around and making peoples faces light up . . . Rest easy bro."

Koro Dub dedicated a heartfelt version of Whakaaria Mai to Haines - "bless your soul an may you look down on us all an protect an guide us".

Anaru DjRu Bennett said: "RIP my bro . . . so many good times and party's with you, still can't believe it.

"Keep the party rockin till I get there ma man! Thoughts and prayers to ur family bro."

Jon Knee Walters said Haines would be sadly missed: "such a sad sad loss . . . Arohanui xoxoxo."

Haines would be remembered, Kris Nielson wrote, "for your fun times and awesome personality. Tokoroa all day :) Kia Kaha bro."

- Waikato Times

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