One minute he was driving towards Wanaka as he started a new life with his girlfriend, the next he was dead after a freak incident in which a mystery object smashed through the window of his car.
Rutger Telford Hale, 22, had moved from Auckland to the Hawea area, near Wanaka, a few weeks ago.
He was travelling with his 26-year-old partner, Deezy (Danielle) Dee, on the Lake Hawea to Albert Town Rd at 6.25am on Thursday when the object smashed through his windscreen and killed him.
Whatever it was then flew out through the rear window.
Ms Dee was uninjured but had to grab the steering wheel of the Subaru Legacy car to control it.
Yesterday police interviewed the driver of a white four-wheel-drive utility vehicle who had come forward. The driver regularly travelled the road and had been on the road around the time of the crash.
However, police were unsure if he was the driver of the white vehicle they wanted to talk to in connection with the incident or if the object came from the vehicle.
During a press conference, Detective Sergeant Brian Cameron said it was an "extremely unlikely scenario" that Mr Hale was hit by a bullet and "while this is a mysterious incident, it's not suspicious".
"We do not have any evidence that suggests that there is anything sinister or suspicious about this crash but we need to work to piece together the logical parts of the puzzle to establish how it occurred," Mr Cameron said.
However, police have been unable to find the object which was believed to have caused a fist-sized hole.
"It's still a mystery," Mr Cameron said.
An autopsy was carried out on Mr Hale's body yesterday afternoon with the results likely to be available next week.
Police received a number of pieces of information that they are following up on after conducting an area canvass of motorists travelling yesterday morning along State Highway 6 in the vicinity of where the crash occurred.
"We're still keen for anyone to contact us if they have any information that might assist in relation to our investigation of this crash," Mr Cameron said.
The couple recently moved to the area and were working in the farm industry. Mr Hale's girlfriend, a foreign national, was staying with his family in the area.
Meanwhile, online tributes poured in yesterday.
Andrea Tremain wrote: "So sad to hear the tragic news today I can't believe it's true. Such a free spirited guy who worked hard and played harder."
Ian Anderson, an Alaskan friend, included a stark warning to drivers saying his post was "to remind everyone to make sure you secure your loads" and if you are driving behind a haul vehicle "give them space".
- © Fairfax NZ News
Check out what's on in your community or post an upcoming event.
Subscribe to a digital replica of The Southland Times.
Southland Times subscriber news and information.
Click here for information about advertising with The Southland Times.