Lyttelton firefighters rushed to an industrial accident to find one of their mates had been killed.
The volunteer crew arrived at Lyttelton Port about 3.20pm yesterday to discover their station officer, Brad Fletcher, 40, had fallen to his death after the scissor-lift he was in toppled over and came to rest on top of a truck carrying a container.
Fletcher - the president of the Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) Lyttelton branch - is the third person to die at Lyttelton Port in the past 12 months.
The Maritime Union has put out a statement about Fletcher's death, saying it was "greatly saddened".
Maritime Union National Secretary Joe Fleetwood said it came as a great shock.
"Brad was a highly respected figure in Lyttelton and within the Maritime Union."
Fleetwood said the Union would be supporting his workmates and family.
Lyttelton chief fire officer Mark Buckley said the father-of-three was soon to be awarded a 23-year service silver bar.
"It's the worst-case scenario. We have always been aware that being in the volunteer brigade in a small community there is always the likelihood the next call is going to be someone you know," he said.
The brigade last night held a ceremony to remember "one of the true leaders".
The brigade has also posted photos on its Facebook page in recognition of Fletcher, including one of a pair of empty boots next to a fire engine. The text reads: "At the end of the day . . . some of may never put our shoes back on."
Tributes to Fletcher have started flooding in on social media.
Friend Dee Dawson posted a tribute to Fletcher on the brigade's Facebook page.
"We've known you since you were 4 years old Brad, and you became a son a man, a husband and father to be very proud of. You knew the meaning of Community. RIP Mate, Lyttelton was the better place for your being there."
The Canterbury Stair Climb team, which Fletcher was part of, posted a tribute to him late last night.
"It's with great sadness that the team learned tonight of the passing of Lyttleton station officer and fellow stairclimber Brad Fletcher in such tragic circumstances. The Lyttleton brigade have always been great competitors at the Skytower and are always amongst the top fundraisers year after year," the tribute read.
"Having personally met Brad at Skytower I have to say he was certainly one of the good buggers and is a huge loss to both the fire service and the stair climbing fraternity. RIP mate, thoughts and prayers are with your family and your fire service family at station 29."
A friend commented Fletcher would be missed by all those who knew him.
A Press investigation in June revealed recent deaths and injuries at Lyttelton Port pointed to a lack of training and safety policies. Inexperienced workers worked back-to-back shifts and others were retiring early because of perceived risks.
In November, transport company owner William Frost died after being pinned between a logging truck trailer and a forklift.
The following month Warren Ritchie, 49, was killed when he was struck by a crane grab while unloading urea in the hold of a ship docked at Lyttelton.
Ten people have been killed while working in ports in the past five years, according to WorkSafe New Zealand figures.
Rail and Maritime Transport Union South Island organiser John Kerr was saddened and angered by Fletcher's death.
"What I can say is everybody on that waterfront is going to be shocked and angered about this . . . any death at work is one too many and this is the third in 12 months on that waterfront, this is just wrong," he said.
"We will become involved, because once the investigation takes place we have got to look at why this happened."
Lyttelton Port of Christchurch (LPC) released a statement saying it was "extremely saddened" by the death.
Chief executive Peter Davie said support services will be provided to the family and colleagues.
"All staff at LPC are deeply distressed by what has occurred and our thoughts are with the family and friends at this time."
MUNZ Lyttelton did not want to comment last night.
The port has suspended container terminal operations until 7am today. The death has been referred to the coroner.
Lyttelton Port deaths November 2013: Transport company owner William Frost died after he was pinned between a logging truck trailer and a forklift.
December 2013: Warren Ritchie was killed when he was struck by a crane grab while unloading urea in the hold of a docked Singaporean ship.
- The Press