Freak dump accident death probed

Last updated 09:30 18/12/2012

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Police have released the name of a man who was killed in a freak accident at a Waihi rubbish dump.

He was 84-year-old Henning Petersen of Waihi.

But just how Petersen died is still unclear. Waikato road policing manager Inspector Marcus Lynam said Serious Crash Unit was investigating.

"What we know is that while reversing at the refuse centre on Sunday morning shortly after 10am, Mr Petersen has got into difficulty and as a result lost control of his car.

"During the course of this loss of control he has been partially ejected from the vehicle and suffered life threatening injuries."

He was transported to Waikato Hospital by ambulance but died later that day.

Lynam said because transfer station was publicly accessible, Petersen's death was being treated as a road fatality.

"Which raises the Waikato road toll to 44 deaths from 40 crashes."

Tip operator Alan Irvine yesterday said the "quick-as-a-flash" incident unfolded in front of him 10.15am on the western outskirts of Waihi.

The man was the second customer to roll into the Hauraki District Council facility at the end of Dean Cres that day.

Irvine told him where to dump his single bag of rubbish.

He watched as the man drove his Toyota Corona to the edge of the tarseal platform as if he was going to reverse into position, but he noticed the door open.

Irvine said he wasn't sure what happened next.

"It was so violent," Irvine recalled at the scene.

"He must have somehow got his feet caught up in the pedals and he's hit the accelerator full on. It's gone at full speed in reverse and done a full 360.

"The car was going that fast he didn't have the time to do anything."

Part way through the skid the man's torso was thrust out the door and dragged along the rough tarseal before he was thrown out of the driver's seat.

"It was pretty scary. The car going full bore backwards. It really spun around so fast it was like being thrown off a horse or something." The car stopped just as suddenly only millimetres from where the man lay.

"When he first got ejected, I can hear it now, [he was] just crying out for help - he was crying out," Irvine said.

"He came to rest so close to the car I thought it was on top of him."

Irvine described it as a strange, unfortunate accident.

Lynam said police offered their condolences to Petersen's family for his tragic loss and said the incident highlighted the need for drivers to be vigilant when behind the wheel at all times.

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