August 18 2017, updated 11:21pm

Wife got to say goodbye to man hit by lightning

Last updated 21:09 15/04/2008

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A man hit by lightning while riding in a Northland hunt died the way he would have liked, his wife told his traumatised companions.

The unnamed man, reported to be 61 and from Auckland, died after a direct hit in a electrical storm near Dargaville, which also killed his horse.

Five other riders were injured and taken to Dargaville Hospital before being transferred to Whangarei Hospital. They were not seriously injured.

His wife was not part of the riding party, but was near the group when disaster struck, family friend Ivan Bridge told TV1's Close Up tonight.

"She was. . .very grateful she had the opportunity to be with him."

Mr Bridge said his friend loved riding, and travelled long distances to be part of events such as the one he died in.

"It was just a group out there having fun. His wife did make the comment that if he had to go, this would be the way he would have liked to go," Mr Bridge said.

"He and his horse both died instantaneously, within seconds."

The injured riders were attended to within minutes by two GPs, three registered nurses and an advanced paramedic.

Efforts to revive the dead man continued over about half an hour.

Mr Bridge was riding toward the front of the field, and did not see the lightning strike.

"The news filtered through that a horse had gone down and someone had gone down, but. . .we had no idea what the consequences were. People riding in the front of the hunt "heard the noise and turned around and saw them on the ground.

`It happened very quickly, apparently the lightning entered through him.

"He wouldn't have know what happened to him and it probably continued through him into his horse.

"Everyone understandably was very upset, feeling for the family, our deepest sympathy go with the family.

"It was freakish, I've never heard of it happening in New Zealand."

One of the party, Lionel Unitt, who was hit in the leg by the lightning, said those taken to hospital were "fine".

"We were just hunting. . .We had a freak lightning storm come over and it struck unfortunately," he told Close Up.

He said he felt a shock in his leg but managed to stay upright.

Everything possible was done by those present, he said.

Sergeant Jonathon Tier said he had never seen anything like it in the 35 years he had lived in Dargaville,

Police said the victim was 50-years-old, but TV3 reported he was a 61-year-old Auckland man.

The hunt was organised by the Northland Hunt Club and the riders were searching for hares when the lightning storm struck.

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Mr Tier said the rider who died was at the rear of the group.

"I've lived here for 35 years and I've never heard of anything like this happening here, it's just uncanny the amount of lightning we had over that short space over a couple of hours," he said.

The lightning was "rather bizarre" with some very loud claps and bolts shooting down into the ground, he said.

A Mahuta resident, who did not want to be named, said she saw the party leaving for the hunt and thought they were "mad".

"We got this massive crack of forked lightning.

"I've never heard such a huge bang."

A nearby transformer blew and the power was out for six hours, she said.

- NZPA

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