A driver on the Rimutaka Hill Road says he watched in horror as a large group of speeding motorcyclists coming towards him swerved in and out of his lane, on the wrong side of the road.
Car transporter Paul Curin's mate turned to him and said: "One of these bastards is going to get us."
Seconds later, about 7.30pm on Wednesday, a motorcyclist coming up the hill failed to take a corner, was thrown from his bike and hit by a car going down the hill, police said.
Paramedics and a rescue helicopter attended the scene, but the 37-year-old Hutt Valley man died before he could be taken to hospital.
The driver swerved out of his way, but was unable to avoid the collision, police said.
Featherston fire chief Colin McKenna said the driver was unhurt but "very distraught".
Curin, 63, was towing a car-trailer over the hill towards Featherston with a workmate when they met a group of about 60 motorcyclists coming the other way over the summit.
As the men descended the hill, they had four near-misses with speeding motorcyclists on "high-powered performance bikes".
Each time, motorcyclists swerved out of Curin's lane while speeding towards him, on the wrong side of the road, and around blind corners.
"Three corners before [the crash], my partner said: ‘One of these bastards is going to get us'."
Curin did not see the crash, but said his vehicle was directly behind the one that collided with the motorcyclist.
He saw the car hard against the roadside barrier and said the driver appeared to have done all he could to avoid the collision: "Any more and they were over the cliff."
His workmate ran to the scene while he dialled 111 and a passing paramedic attempted to revive the man. "He never moved, he was face-down into the road . . . she rolled him over and took his helmet off and she was working on him."
A crowd of motorcyclists gathered and one became aggressive with Curin, so he and his workmate left. Minutes later, emergency vehicles passed them heading to the scene, about one-third of the way up the hill from Featherston.
Curin said it was "a bloody miracle" more riders were not killed, given their risky behaviour.
Conditions were warm, dry and still, and traffic was light, he said. "They were going hard, it was like the road was one way as far as they were concerned. It was a terrible thing, but if you show disrespect to the road like that . . ."
McKenna said his crew was second on the scene after a Wellington Free Ambulance paramedic, who, he understood, was travelling to or from work when she came upon the accident, and performed CPR until the fire crew took over.
The road was closed to traffic until about 1am while police investigated the crash.
Byron Cummins, president of the Wellington branch of Bikers Rights Organisation New Zealand (Bronz), said his group often organised rides over the Rimutaka Hill, but did not have an official event on Wednesday.
He knew the dead rider, who was not a member of Bronz, and described him as "responsible, down-to-earth, a skilled and qualified motorcyclist".
He cautioned against "speculation" about the accident. "A lot of motorcyclists go over the hill . . . you can't argue that one group of motorcyclists that you see is the same group that had an accident.
"We don't know what went wrong."
- The Dominion Post