A contractor is dead after his ute plunged about 170 metres
down a scree bank near the Mt Hutt ski area in poor
Skifield staff who worked with the man found the crash site
about 7am after following tracks in the snow from the main
Police named the man this morning as 55-year-old Barry Thomas
Whitcombe, from Ashburton, but it remains a mystery as to why
his vehicle left a road he knew well after years of working
on the mountain.
Mr Whitcombe was an experienced grader driver, employed as a
contractor at Mt Hutt ski field.
Police say the cause of the incident is yet to be determined.
Initial inquiries indicate that the utility vehicle Mr
Whitcombe was driving came off the skifield access road, and
he was thrown from the vehicle.
The accident happened about 2km from the skifield car park,
on a section of the road known as Windy Point.
Investigators will consider factors including weather
conditions and the possibility of a medical event as
potential contributing factors.
Weather conditions in the area at the time were poor, with
strong wind and rain, and several inches of snow on the
The Police Serious Crash Unit attended the scene and is
continuing inquiries. A post mortem will be conducted today.
Methven Police Senior Constable Mike Seque said there was
about six inches of snow on the ground and it was raining and
foggy when the crash occurred, not long before the ute was
"A Toyota Hilux double cab ute has simply, on its way up the
hill, driven off the road and gone down a scree bank," Mr
"The vehicle has come to rest approximately 170m down, on its
roof. The driver was found thrown clear.
"At this stage we don't know why or how it's occurred, we'll
just have to wait until our investigation is complete."
Mt Hutt general manager of operations James Urquhart said the
ski area's chaplain and counselling were being made
"It's a massive loss for us and for our staff. Our staff are
devastated," Mr Urquhart said.
Mr Whitcombe was not an employee of Mt Hutt. He was an
outside contractor and experienced at driving on the access
Mr Seque commended the Methven Volunteer Fire Brigade who
executed a textbook retrieval of the body using ropes in
- By Erin Tasker of the Ashburton Guardian