They had no warning it was coming. But when they saw the
tornado, the workmen ran for their lives.
They were putting up giant concrete pre-cast panels at the
Hobsonville High School site when the wind and rain began. As
it intensified, the workers looked desperately for an escape
One man, named by co-workers as Brendan, saw the tornado and
ran towards a truck where he thought he would be safe.
A colleague said he managed to get to the side of the truck
when one of the concrete panels came crashing down. The
impact flattened the truck. Another man understood to have
been crouching beside the driver's door was also killed.
A third person in the area also died.
A witness to the building site tragedy said ''it was just
A concrete panel that had been hanging off a crane crashed to
the ground and a worker who was harnessed to the frame of the
building was left dangling from a gantry. The workers were
from Hawkins Construction and subcontractor Vuksich and
Borich Civil Engineering.
Debris was flying in every direction and the on-site office
was in ruins.
The foreman had to crawl free to escape.
A workman at the scene told of the desperate search for
Brendan, a labourer aged in his 20s. He said they looked for
him in his car, parked close to the spot where he died, and
called out to him.
They feared he had been blown from the site on to a reserve
that was littered with debris from houses.
The reality, though, was far worse.
The news was devastating.
''It's pretty hard when you have to tell [the boss] that
we've lost one of the boys.''
Other workers said they had no other choice but to cling to a
large truck and ''hold on for dear life''.
''I've never seen anything like it,'' one said.
The worker said the concrete panels must weigh 20 tonnes but
they were being picked up ''like they were small rocks''.
As they watched the body recovery, the workers spoke of
receiving no warning bad weather was on its way, even though
weather alerts had been issued to the media for more than an
The recovery of the bodies was hampered by heavy rain and the
threat of another tornado. Concrete cutters were used to try
to break up the panel and a crane was brought to the scene to
try to lift it.
Hawkins Construction executive general manager Dan Ashby said
the company's immediate focus was on supporting the affected
workers' families, and its staff and subcontractors on site.
A staff member at Vuksich and Borich Civil Engineering said a
member of staff was one of those thought to have died.
- Andrew Koubaridis