From Monday to Friday, Auckland businessman Chris
Heilbronn wore a suit and spent his days helping to close
mergers and build profits for accountancy giant BDO.
Come Saturday, the executive director's suit stayed in the
wardrobe, his car in the drive. He'd pull on his leathers and
helmet and climb on to his Ducati 999 roadbike.
His destination was the quiet beachside town of Omaha, north
Yesterday, Heilbronn's life ended there, less than 100m from
the former family bach he loved so much he returned most
The 61-year-old father of David, 24, and Kathryn, 18, slammed
into the side of a turning vehicle on Meiklejohn Way, his
bike tumbling on to the asphalt just after 10am.
A neighbour heard a "big bang" and screaming, and sat with
Heilbronn until an ambulance arrived.
He could not be saved.
"I was just praying he was alive but I wasn't sure," she
The car's 52-year-old driver and her teen passenger escaped
David Heilbronn said police told the family his father was
travelling straight when the oncoming car turned into his
"He slammed into the side of her ... Maybe he was coming back
from the bach. He really loved swimming there, he loved to
surf. It looks like he was just enjoying the place."
Chris Heilbronn's tearful widow, Jeanette, said: "It was just
an awful, awful accident."
Her husband was "capable and resilient", in roles that
included a partnership at Deloitte, CEO of New Zealand Land
and Kensington Swan, and planning and strategy GM at the
Auckland District Health Board since migrating from the UK
more than 30 years ago.
No matter how high he rose, he took his co-workers with him,
Jeanette Heilbronn said.
"He always had a way of putting things that pointed out what
needed to be done without making anyone feel small. I don't
think there's anybody who disliked him."
BDO chairman David O'Connor said staff closest to Heilbronn,
especially the young for whom he was a mentor, were
David Heilbronn said his father had been riding motorcycles
since he was 16, a joy he passed on to his son. It had been
his father's dream to own a Ducati, which he bought five
"It wasn't the fastest you get because he ... wanted
something that was fun to drive and not dangerous," David
"He and the slowpokes would sit at the back and enjoy a cuppa
and tootle back at their own pace.
"That's something my dad taught me, driving safely. He used
to say, 'Heads and hubcaps - you see the hubcaps moving and
you don't see the head looking at you. You've got to wait, or
honk your horn or just be careful'."