Wanaka fire victim 'much loved'

Last updated 18:45 21/08/2014
wanaka fire

FATAL FIRE: A lone police officer guards the site of a fatal house fire in Lagoon Ave in Albert Town early this morning.

Tribute to Bruce Cochrane
TRIBUTE: A photo with the words 'Go well Bruce. Loved by many' was placed near the property.
Laurence Voight
SCENE INVESTIGATION: Fire Service East Otago area commander Laurence Voight speaks to media outside the property of a fatal house fire in Wanaka early this morning. A man, sleeping in a granny flat at the back of the property, was killed in the blaze.

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A man killed in a fire near Wanaka was a paraplegic who had ‘‘knuckled down’’ after an accident years ago.

The Southland Times understands he was Bruce Cochran, in his 50s, although police have yet to formally name him.

Cochran died after a fire ripped through his Lagoon Ave, Albert Town, granny flat just after 4.30am today.

Long-time friend Matt Gunn said Cochran was ‘‘loved by all members of the community’’ and his astute nature, warm smile and sense of humour would be missed.

After an accident in his mid 20s left him paraplegic and needing a wheelchair, Cochran had simply got on with his life.

‘‘His character was one of just knuckle down and get on with it and don’t make a fuss.’’

‘‘He was an inspiration for many people, I’m sure,’’ he said.

‘‘He had the warmest of smiles and combined with his astute nature and intellect it made for some good humour,’’ he said.

His family in Whangarei were in shock, Gunn said.

Cochran worked at Cardrona Alpine Resort as a ticketer.

‘‘He was a bit of a legend in the ticket office,’’ Gunn said.

Kai Whakapai Cafe staff member Tomu Filikitonga said Cochran had been a regular at the cafe for more than 10 years.

He was affectionately known as ‘‘Bruceski’’, a nickname pulled from his favourite Wanaka Beerworks beer Brewski, Filikitonga said.

‘‘It’s just a sad day,’’ he said.

Two fire trucks from Wanaka attended the callout and firefighters found the flat "well involved" on arrival.

A police forensics team from Christchurch was called to the scene to assist with identifying the body.

Fire Service East Otago area commander Laurence Voight said the flat was at the rear of the section and while the house at the front had been untouched, the flat was gutted.

Queenstown and Dunedin fire safety officers were working to determine the cause of the fire.

Experts from Environmental Science and Research (ESR) were also assisting.

Fatal fires in the area were not common, Voight said. ’’It’s a very sad event,’’ he said. 

The body was removed from the scene today and an autopsy was expected to take place in Dunedin tomorrow.

Southern police acting detective inspector Colin Blackie said formal identification could only take place once the autopsy was done.

Some of neighbours who called emergency services about a fire were woken by their dogs acting strangely.

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