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Honeymoon tragedy

By Hayley Gastmeier

[email protected]

A decision to take in Wairarapa stars proved fatal for a young American honeymooner.

The man killed on a Martinborough rural road on Thursday morning was Douglas Dietz from Alexandria, Virginia.

The 29-year-old was found dead behind the wheel of his rental vehicle which was nose down in a ditch on Shooting Butts Rd.

The white Toyota Estima was discovered just after 7am by a passing member of the public.

Police have confirmed Dietz was not wearing a seatbelt.

The couple had checked into The Claremont Accommodation on Regent St on Wednesday evening.

Dietz left the hotel sometime between 8pm and 9pm “to go and look at the stars”, leaving his wife at the motel, said sergeant Richie Day of South Wairarapa police.

When she woke at 3am to find her husband had not returned she reported him missing to police.

A 2km stretch of the gravel road was cordoned off until 11am on Thursday while the Serious Crash Unit examined the scene.

Mr Day said the investigation was ongoing.

Acting traffic sergeant Shane Nolan, who supported Dietz’s wife on news of his death, said the couple had been in New Zealand for just five days.

“It’s a huge tragedy.”

He said there was nothing to indicate “bad driving” was a factor in the crash.

Dietz’s wife is being supported by Victim Support in Wellington.

South Wairarapa Mayor Adrienne Staples said the situation was heart breaking.

“We’re extremely upset that something like this should happen in our district.

“I wouldn’t want anybody to have this happen to them, but to be a visitor, and a visitor on their honeymoon, it makes it even worse.”

Wairarapa Road Safety Council manager Bruce Pauling said last year over 90 crash fatalities nationwide could have been avoided by the wearing of a seatbelt.

“Your chances of being injured rise significantly in rollover situations, or when you leave the road and you enter into culverts and drains.”

Mr Pauling said crash barriers, like on SH2 between Carterton and Masterton, were in place to reduce vehicles crashing into culverts.

“But you can’t put crash barriers along every stretch of New Zealand rural road. There are just thousands and thousands of kilometres.

“Once again we have to hammer home for people to drive to the conditions.

“You must slow down on rural roads, and a seatbelt goes hand in hand with that,” he said.

A woman who lives in the property closest to the crash site said Shooting Butts Rd was dangerous and narrow.

Martinborough resident Graham Higginson agrees, saying he hit a pot-hole while driving along it last week and nearly ended up crashing into the drainage culvert where Dietz died.

“That one little piece there is not well designed. It’s pretty much a kink on an otherwise straight road.”

A spokeswoman from the United States Embassy said they had contacted Dietz’s family in America and were working closely with them on arrangements “during this difficult time”.


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