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Body of missing army gunner found

Andrew Rance, 21, was found dead in his car on Tuesday. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Third fatal crash this year in region

HAYLEY GASTMEIER
[email protected]

The body of missing 21-year-old army gunner Andrew Rance was found in his crashed BMW in a deep ditch on Te Whiti Rd east of Masterton on Tuesday afternoon.

While police have yet to confirm cause of death, it seems likely that Rance, reported missing after attending a wedding in Gladstone on Saturday night, is Wairarapa’s third road death of the year.

Rance, based in Linton, was reported missing on Monday and his black BMW was discovered on Tuesday afternoon.

He was last seen around midnight on Saturday leaving the wedding on Gladstone Rd.

When he did not show up for work his family alerted police, who put out a missing person report.

Wairarapa police were notified of the missing man on Tuesday, a few hours before his vehicle was located.

The New Zealand Defence Force has confirmed Rance was a gunner in the 16th Field Regiment, Royal New Zealand Artillery.

His family is from Southland.

Wairarapa response manager Senior Sergeant Jennifer Hansen said Rance’s vehicle would not have been “immediately visible” from the road.

“A member of the public, who was aware of his disappearance, located his vehicle on Te Whiti Rd and they notified the local police.”

She said the Serious Crash Unit was investigating.

It was too early to confirm the cause of death or rule out anything suspicious, she said, but “early indications” suggested he had died as a result of a car crash.

Police could not confirm on Wednesday whether alcohol had been a factor.

Hansen said police inquiries were continuing, and Linton police were liaising with Rance’s family.

Rance’s vehicle was found in a ditch on a corner after a straight stretch of road that was unlit with street lights.

Wairarapa Road Safety Council manager Bruce Pauling said this appeared to be the third fatal crash for the region this year.

“It’s tragic for the community, it’s tragic for the family.”

PJ Hawkins, a shearer known as Jox, was killed on his way to work on January 16 in a single-vehicle accident on Millars Rd, in rural Carterton.

Craig Shields died as the result of a crash between his vehicle and a logging truck on the Tauherenikau bridge on January 29.

There were six fatal car crashes in Wairarapa last year.

Pauling said “all of those road crashes were preventable”.

“We need to adhere to the same old principles of driving to the conditions at all times, adjusting your speed, wearing seatbelts, and of course, not drink driving.”

A NZDF spokesperson said Rance enlisted into the New Zealand Army in August 2015.

He was awarded the NZ Defence Service Medal Regular Force Clasp in August 2018.

“He was a passionate field soldier and conducted numerous exercises, including working with 5th ANGLICO, United States Marine Corp, in Alaska,” the spokesperson said.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this tragic time.”

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