Ashburton driver killed on Mt Hutt

Last updated 13:06 06/03/2014
Barry Whitcombe
Barry Thomas Whitcombe, 55, died when his vehicle plunged 30 metres off the Mt Hutt access road.

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The wife of Barry Whitcombe, who was killed when his vehicle plunged 30 metres off the Mt Hutt access road, says he "died how he was meant to die".

Whitcombe, 55, was an experienced grader driver from Ashburton. He was employed as a contractor at the Mt Hutt ski area and was driving ahead of another vehicle when the crash happened just before 7am yesterday.

Margaret Whitcombe told The Press today she was struggling to come to grips with the loss of her husband, a father of six children aged 19-35.

Her husband lived in Hokitika before moving to Ashburton about seven years ago. He was working for Grant Hood Contracting at the time of his death.

His colleagues broke the news of the fatal crash to her, yesterday.

''As soon as I saw them I knew he wasn't coming home,'' she said through tears.

''It's a hell of a shock alright. I think everybody is in shock."

Her husband was a loving family man and a great father who enjoyed his job, she said.

''He was a very quiet person and sometimes he was a bit goofy. 

''I think he died how he was meant to die.''

His funeral would be held on Monday in Ashburton, she said.

Last month, Barry Whitcombe was interviewed by One News as he worked on steep terrain to help clean up Mt Hutt after avalanches damaged the ski-field last year. 

He said: "It's no place to be scared up here. If you're going to be scared you may as well stay on the flat."

Carolyn Bond-Hood, from Grant Hood Contracting, said Barry Whitcombe had worked for the company about seven years and would be remembered as a ''loyal, hard working and an all round great guy''.

''The company has been hit very hard by his death.''

Whitcombe lead a project for the company which won an environmental award at the Contractors Federation Awards last year, Bond-Hood said.

Police said the cause of the crash was yet to be determined, but initial enquiries indicated he was thrown from the vehicle as his ute came off the ski field access road.

Weather conditions and the possibility of a medical event would be considered as possible factors in the crash.

Strong wind and rain had made conditions difficult at the time of the crash, and several centimetres of snow were on the ground.

An autopsy would be carried out today, police said.

Crash investigator Senior Constable John Isitt yesterday said Whitcombe had not been wearing a seatbelt when the crash happened, but it was unlikely the outcome would have been different even if he had stayed in the vehicle.

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NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson said Whitcombe had worked on the ski field for a number of years and was ''very familiar'' with the road.

"He was a great guy and very knowledgeable of the area and very well respected by our staff.''

- The Press


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