Fireman finds best friends in wreckage

Last updated 05:00 04/06/2012
Putorino Crash

Police investigate the wreckage of the four-wheel drive vehicle crashed near Putorino, leaving its four occupants dead.

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Four men killed in a crash in Hawke's Bay lay undiscovered for more than seven hours before locals found them.

When volunteer firefighter Gary Mackintosh, 52, reached the mangled wreckage of the Mitsubishi Pajero, he realised two of the dead were his life-long mates Jack Huata, 64, and Boydie Perata, believed to be in his 40s.

He took some comfort from the four bodies looking "quite peaceful". "It wasn't gruesome or anything like that. There were no horrific injuries."

Headlights from the wreck had been seen by dairy farmer Dianne Torr as she drove through the area at 7.30am yesterday. She raised the alarm.

Police told Mr Mackintosh that the men had probably been dead since about midnight.

The crash contributed to yesterday's rising holiday road toll.

It claimed the lives of farmhands working at Moeangiangi Station – the same station four shearers had been heading home from when they died in a crash in January.

Police believe alcohol was a factor in both crashes.

Mr Mackintosh said the bodies of two of those who died in yesterday's crash were in a paddock, and two in the car.

Mr Huata and Mr Perata were "great, happy-go-lucky buggers" ... They'd never do you any harm, those ones."

Both were employed as general hands at Moeangiangi Station, where they had worked for more than 10 years, and both came from nearby Raupunga. The other men were from Waihua, near Mohaka.

"I got there, and saw there was nothing we could do. So I searched the gullies just in case there was someone else, who might have been thrown out or crawled away."

The vehicle was a wreck. "One of the cops thought we must have cut the roof off. But we hadn't."

Mr Mackintosh had attended many fatal crashes in more than 15 years as a volunteer firefighter, including the crash near Wairoa in January that killed the four shearers. Yesterday's was one of the worst he had seen.

Police told The Dominion Post yesterday that the men had been drinking at a local pub on Saturday night before the crash.

They could not say if they had been wearing seatbelts.

Mrs Torr, a local dairy farmer, said she had stopped after seeing headlights shining from a paddock while she drove to work.

She stumbled across the bodies of two men – men she recognised and spoke to four or five times a week.

"The car lights were still on. I saw a couple of bodies and at that stage I thought I don't need to look any further."

The men were lying face down. "I went up to them but didn't touch them because I knew they were dead."

Senior Sergeant Sarah Stewart said the men were aged 42, 47, 48 and 64. Their names are expected to be released today.

Hopes of mirroring the Easter Weekend record road toll of zero were shattered yesterday as the holiday road toll rose to seven.

Also in Hawke's Bay, near Otane, a 67-year-old woman pedestrian died after being hit by a car just before 6pm on Saturday.

A young man died in a fatal collision just south of Stratford in Taranaki at 9.20pm on Saturday.

In Lincoln, a man died after being struck by a car yesterday.

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Among the twisted metal and personal belongings, bottles of beer and gumboots lay strewn across the Hawke's Bay paddock where four men lost their lives yesterday.

Two of those killed had worked at Moeangiangi Station for more than 10 years. It is the second time this year that workers from the station have been killed in a fatal road crash linked to alcohol.

In January, a gang of shearers heading home after a few beers when they had finished work died in a head-on smash. Watson Tipu, 30, Kennedy James Weir, 49, and half-brothers Raimon Keefe, 16, and Zyah Gianni Marsh, 13, were killed on Mohaka Hill north of Raupunga.

Police said yesterday that alcohol was a factor in that smash. At the time, police crash scene investigator Senior Constable Corey Ubels said the car was torn open "like a can in a can opener", with both righthand-side doors ripped off. The car had crossed the centre line while negotiating a 65kmh bend and crashed head-on with a car.

Senior Sergeant Sarah Stewart said the Mitsubishi Pajero involved in yesterday's crash was found lying in a paddock about 2 kilometres down Waikare Rd from a local pub.

She said the driver appeared to have lost control on a slight crest on the unsealed road. The vehicle slid across the road, flipped and crashed through a fence into a paddock. As in the previous crash, the vehicle was torn apart.

Ms Stewart said police wanted to talk to anyone who may have seen the crash or seen the blue-grey Mitsubishi Pajero wagon in the northern Hawke's Bay area.

They did not believe any other vehicles were involved in the crash.

- The Dominion Post

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