Crash survivor speaks of friends, thanks Kiwis
The sole survivor of a crash that killed four of his friends has paid tribute to the medical staff who helped him during his recovery and to his "four teammates" who died in the fatal smash.
Chilean man Benjamin Blake, 25, and his friends were all working on the Ruapehu ski fields while in New Zealand on a working holiday when the accident happened on July 11.
The station wagon they were in collided with a truck near Tongariro National Park.
Mr Blake suffered multiple injuries while Agustin Donofrio, 25, German Caceres, 35, Nicolas Ursic, 27, and Luciano Pucheta, 19, were killed.
In a statement released yesterday, Mr Blake recalled the day of the crash.
"Agustín sends me a message by telephone informing me that we were to play football," he said. "He also sent it to Chino [Germán Cáceres], who would be in Ohakune."
"We wanted to form a team [of] at least five people. We [called] Lucho [Luciano] and Nico [Nicolas], both of Argentine nationality and work friends, and so our team was completed."
The men travelled to Ohakune to play in a tournament they hadn't registered for but they were "able to play and win" a game.
After the game the men left by car at about 10pm to return to National Park when they collided with a truck on State Highway 4.
Mr Blake said. "I see giant lights dazzling our eyes, I have no memory of shouting... after a long silence [for me], I start to hear the loud sound of a helicopter and many screams of people...
"Today, after multiple operations, I am in my bed at Waikato Hospital, writing what I remember and I know how my four teammates departed with a final victory in their hearts, and that the five of us, that night, we were happy to achieve our goal.
"I am very grateful to the doctors... and all those who have relieved my pain and made possible my recovery. If God wills it, soon I will return to my home in Chile, but I will never forget what this country and the Waikato Hospital did for me."