Dunedin man on scene of fiery fatality

A Dunedin man has described coming across the horrific crash scene where two people died north of Oamaru, on Boxing Day.Oil company representative Andrew Hobbs, who was driving with his wife and children on the way to work in Nelson, was among the first to arrive at the burning wreckage where Horton James Hill (80), of Christchurch, and Matthew James Gilchrist (31), of Oamaru, died about 8.30am on Tuesday.

Police released the two men's names yesterday and extended their sympathy to the families.

Police have not responded to Mr Hobbs' claim that Mr Gilchrist accelerated rapidly after crossing the Waitaki Bridge when he passed a police vehicle that switched its lights on.

He said he was following Mr Gilchrist's Holden Commodore when it passed a police officer who momentarily put her lights on.

The police officer did not pursue the Holden.

"Basically, as soon as she [the police officer] has flicked the lights on, he's bolted - and I mean bolted,'' Mr Hobbs said. "He's disappeared into the wild blue yonder at a rate of knots that was scary.''

"I looked at [Mr Hobbs' wife] Karen, and Karen looked at me and said: 'That's not good.

"And as I say, we came around the corner 30 seconds later to that mess.''

Two other cars stopped at the scene, but Mr Hobbs said his first aid training and experience working for the Volunteer Fire Brigade in Kaiapoi kicked in after he came across the crash scene.

Mrs Hobbs called the police.

He said he extinguished a fire that threatened to engulf the two cars involved in the high-speed head-on collision, ascertained both the victims were dead, and while another motorist stopped traffic, he covered Mr Gilchrist, who had been ejected from his vehicle in the crash, with an emergency blanket to "give him a bit of dignity''.

After emergency services arrived, Mr Hobbs said he spoke with the police officer he passed near the Waitaki Bridge at the scene.

And about 45 minutes later he continued on his journey to Nelson where he was working - a trip he had decided to bring his wife and children on so they could have a "a bit of a vacation''.

Mr Hobbs told Fairfax he would stop at Waimate on his return to make a formal statement to police, but speaking to the Otago Daily Times earlier, he said he was "disappointed'' he had not already been contacted by police.

"There was no offer of support - I had my wife and kids there, mate, and it stressed my wife out fairly seriously, to be fair.''

On the day of the crash Mid-South Canterbury area commander Inspector Dave Gaskin, of Timaru, said the two men would have died ``instantaneously'' due to the speed involved and said both would be alive if the speed limits had been adhered to.

In a statement yesterday, police said the investigation by the serious crash unit and Waimate Police into the circumstances surrounding the crash were ongoing.

Yesterday, a member of Mr Gilchrist's family declined to comment.


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