Victim was preparing to return to Argentina

17:00, Jul 14 2012
Nicolas Ursic
Nicolas Ursic

Claudia Ursic collapsed to the ground when she learned her son had died on the other side of the world.

"He died. He died, my son has died," she cried.

Only hours before, Ursic was boasting about her son's travels in New Zealand to his old high school friend. She had no idea he was already dead.

Nicolas Lallana Ursic, 27, was among four Argentine men killed in a horrific car crash near Tongariro Park on Wednesday night.

His mother and sister Maria Jesus Arroyo spoke to the Sunday Star-Times from their Cordoba home yesterday.

"I still can't believe it. I can't believe this is all happening. I'm crying all the time, without rest," Ursic said.


It was 15 hours after "Nico" had died that his mother was telephoned by the Argentine embassy. In disbelief, Ursic called the embassy back again and again, trying to get her head around the tragedy.

"It was a very difficult night because my mother wouldn't stop crying, looking at photographs, remembering him," Arroyo said.

Ursic had not seen her son since August last year when she hugged him goodbye at the airport. The family was full of smiles as Nicolas Ursic and his partner of three years, Gala Cordoba, were leaving on an "adventure to see the world".

"Never in my life had I said goodbye to him like that. I said so many times 'I love you, I love you' as if I knew he wouldn't be coming back," Ursic said.

Nicolas Ursic had planned his trip to New Zealand for nearly two years, and sold his motorbike, a gift from this grandparents, to pay for the flights. A Pumas fan, he wanted to be in the country for the Rugby World Cup and then travel.

He worked alongside Agustin Donofrio, 25, Luciano Pucheta, 19, German Caceres, 35, and Chilean Benjamin Blake, 25, on the skifields at Mt Ruapehu. The group had just finished a football game when one of them tried to overtake a truck on State Highway 4 and collided into an oncoming truck. Only Blake survived. He was yesterday in a stable condition in Waikato Hospital.

The smash was a chilling reminder of the deaths of three Boston University students, Austin Brashears, 21, Daniela Rosanna Lekhno, 20, and Roch Jauberty, 21, when a van driven by fellow student Stephen Houseman, 20, rolled on a bend of State Highway 46, south of Turangi, on May 11.

Nicolas Ursic was only four weeks away from returning home and had already bought the tickets.

"We were waiting for him to come back. He wanted to have experiences to tell his future children and grandchildren. But now he won't be able to tell anyone. He can't tell anything to anyone," his mother said.

The family's main focus was bringing their boy back home, said Arroyo.

"My mum is suffering so much, she just wants Nicolas here. We feel like it's taking too long in New Zealand. We are desperate to find a plane to get him and the others home."

The family has appealed to the Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner for help speeding up the repatriation.

Taumarunui police Inspector Steve Mastrovich yesterday said post-mortem examinations of the bodies were conducted on Friday, and the paperwork for all but one of the men was complete.

Arroyo said Cordoba, his brother's girlfriend and "soul mate", was distraught after losing "the love of her life".

Arroyo had booked a flight to New Zealand and was expected to arrive tomorrow, and, along with Cordoba, would take her brother back to Argentina.

The interviews were conducted in Spanish and translated.

Fairfax Media