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Crash kills American visitor

By Hayley Gastmeier

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An American visitor was found dead in the wreck of his car on a gravel road in rural Martinborough yesterday morning.

The 29-year-old man was on Shooting Butts Rd in a rental vehicle, which was discovered nose first in a ditch.

Emergency services were alerted to the crashed white Toyota Estima by a passing driver just after 7am.

Wairarapa Police Area Commander Donna Howard confirmed the man had been visiting New Zealand with his wife.

The couple had been guests at The Claremont Accommodation on Regent St, Martinborough.

Ms Howard said the crash involved just one vehicle and the man was dead when emergency services arrived.

The 2km road was blocked off until 11am while the Serious Crash Unit carried out a scene examination.

At the crash site there were paint dots marking the tyre tracks of the crashed car.

It appeared the vehicle had been travelling north.

About half way along the road the vehicle seemed to have veered to the right, up onto a grass berm and crashed into the drain culvert.

The owner of a Shooting Butts Rd property, near the crash scene, said her husband had got up at about 3am to make a cup of tea.

“When he came back to bed he said ‘what’s that funny noise – is it rain?’,” said the woman, who did not want to be named.

“Now I’m thinking perhaps it was the horn of the vehicle going.”

The woman said when morning light came she could see fire crews from her house, which is on a raised piece of land.

Her teenage granddaughter said she and her grandfather went to check on the sheep and saw the crashed vehicle up close.

“It was nose down, it had fallen into a ditch and it was pointing straight up.”

The drainage channel into which a car crashed, killing the 29-year-old driver. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER
The drainage channel into which a car crashed, killing the 29-year-old driver. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

The woman said the rural road was dangerous and narrow.

“It’s really only a one- way road. There’s pot holes and a twist in it, and at the edge of it they have dug a channel for drainage.

“When there’s long grass there of course you can’t see it. We know it’s there but anybody not familiar with it wouldn’t.

“It’s very sad,” she said.

South Wairarapa District Council infrastructure and services manager Mark Allingham said the road was commonly used by locals as a shortcut to Martinborough from Tuturumuri.

This was the first crash on the road that he was aware of.

“The speed limit is 100kmh but that’s not really suitable,” he said.

Looking north along Shooting Butts Rd at grass tyre marks left by the Toyota before it crashed into the culvert ahead.  PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER
Looking north along Shooting Butts Rd at grass tyre marks left by the Toyota before it crashed into the culvert ahead. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

“People try and drive on dirt roads the same as they would on a sealed road but they need to drive to the conditions.”

A spokesperson from the American Embassy in Wellington confirmed the man was a citizen of the United States.

“The embassy is working with his family during this tragic time and we are doing everything we can to help them.

“The local authorities have been really helpful and we are deeply grateful for their support.”

Police confirmed the man had been reported missing from Regent St yesterday morning.

At 4pm yesterday they were still working to determine what caused the crash.

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Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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