By Emily Norman

emily.norman@age.co.nz

A Wairarapa school teacher, who was tramping with students the same weekend as the Tararua tragedy, says “the whole thing is bizarre”.

He now wants answers as to why the two men died, and so do his students.

Joe Nawalaniec of Rathkeale College was out tramping with several students from Friday night to Sunday afternoon in the Haurangi Range, on the eastern side of Wairarapa.

“Firstly I think it’s a really senseless and tragic waste of life,” he said.

“To have those two guys cut down in the prime of their life like that is avoidable.

“It’s just a complete waste and I feel so sorry for their families.”

He said he had never, in all of his experiences in New Zealand bush, heard of people “just dying on a fairly straightforward track 1km from a hut”.

“One maybe, but not two.

“I certainly hope that the police get onto doing the report and the coroner gets onto this fairly quickly.

“There are hundreds of thousands of people out there that go tramping.

“I want answers. I personally want answers, my boys want answers, and people who go into the New Zealand bush want to know what the hell went wrong and if it’s something that we need to be aware of, we need to know about it now.

“We’re running blind.”

Mr Nawalaniec said he did not want to speculate on the trampers’ cause of death, but suggested shock may have played a role.

“While you’re travelling up and down these ridges, you’re burning up a lot of energy, you’re getting very tired, your blood sugar is getting low, you’re sweating, and your sweat is cooling on you as you stop because you’re getting so tired.

“You’re starting to make decisions that are influenced by feeling cold, possibly a bit hypothermic… and then you start to panic.”

Mr Nawalaniec said on the eastern ranges, where he and the school group went on the weekend, it was “quite a different experience”.

He said the conditions were “so lovely” that on Saturday night they had a bonfire and toasted marshmallows.

“We had to leave the door of the hut open it was so warm, unseasonably warm.”