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One of the two young shearers killed in a road crash in Central Otago yesterday morning was a rising star in the shearing world.
Police have said speed and fatigue were likely factors in the deaths of Southland shearing gang members Stewart Hetaraka Smith, 20, of Mataura and Lavenia Setefano, 19, of Gore.
They were killed about 6.15am when a van containing six shearers rolled on a straight stretch road about 4km east of Poolburn, between Ophir and Oturehua.
Mr Smith was a promising young competition shearer who had spent two years on the "modern apprentice" programme with industry trainers Tectra.
He was in three successive finals at Golden Shears in Masterton, was a runner-up in the junior class in 2006, fourth in the intermediate class in 2007 and fourth in the senior class in March this year.
He had started last season finishing second in the New Zealand Spring Shears intermediate final at Waimate in October, before going up to the senior class, and finishing third at the Southern Shears in Gore in February, before heading for Masterton.
All six members of the gang were thrown from the van, which came to rest in a paddock. Mr Smith and Ms Setefano were killed instantly, while three others seriously injured were flown by helicopter to Dunedin Hospital.
Another person, with moderate injuries, was taken to Dunstan Hospital, in Clyde.
Detective Sergeant Derek Shaw of the Central Otago CIB said police had not yet interviewed the crash survivors.
"Police are currently keeping an open mind as to the cause of the crash, but the factors of speed and fatigue are strong considerations," he said.
"The possibility of sunstrike, given the direction of travel and the time of day was considered, but is unlikely to be a strong factor."