Tributes to 'fearless' young snowboarder

Hamish Bagley.
Hamish Bagley.
The "fearless and talented" young Otago snowboarder killed in a fiery car crash on the Lindis Pass was a contender for the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, where the tight-knit athletes have been rocked by the news of his death.

Hamish Bagley (17), of Arrowtown, was killed when his car ran off State Highway 8, down a bank and burst into flames.

A stream of tributes appeared on social media sites yesterday afternoon, some of them from New Zealand competitors at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Snowboarder Rebecca ''Possum'' Torr tweeted: ''With a heavy heart I hear of a young life taken too soon. Rest in peace Hamish Bagley.''

And snowboarder Brock Crouch tweeted: ''We lost a great one last night. Rest in peace Hamish Bagley.''

Chef de mission of the New Zealand Olympic team at Sochi, Peter Wardell told the Otago Daily Times last night he got to know Mr Bagley in 2012 when they both attended the Youth Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.

''He was an awesome young guy. We had a lot of fun with him.

''He was a bright spark and a pretty talented young snowboarder.''

Mr Bagley was on the ''long list'' for the Sochi Olympics but did not quite meet the selection criteria.

However, Mr Wardell said he was one of the younger competitors and was ''tracking'' towards the 2018 Games and was part of Snow Sports NZ's development programme.

''So we would have totally expected to see him with the rings and fern on his chest as a senior athlete [in 2018] rather than a junior.''

Mr Wardell broke the news to New Zealand Olympic competitors yesterday morning.

Some had found the news difficult to comprehend.

''That's just what makes it so sad for everybody here,'' Mr Wardell said.

''He played and lived in a high risk environment and apart from a few bumps and bruises and the odd fracture, nothing happened.

''For a car accident in the Lindis to take him out seems too terrible to be true.''

Sergeant Derek Ealson, of Cromwell, said late yesterday afternoon Mr Bagley's Subaru Impreza crashed north of the Cluden Hill summit.

''Initial indications were that the vehicle had failed to take a bend and left the road, crashing into a fence and tree before coming to rest about 30m below the road at the bottom of a steep bank.

''The vehicle has then burst into flames.

''It appeared that speed and alcohol were not factors in the crash.''

Mr Bagley left Wakatipu High School last year.

Principal Steve Hall said he was a popular pupil and passionate about snowboarding.

''We feel for his family and friends,'' Mr Hall said, adding some affected pupils had left school early yesterday.

''For kids who knew him and his family well, it's surprising and sad and upsetting.''

Mr Bagley first came to public attention as a 14-year-old when he won the 2010 Winter Festival special achiever award, worth $10,000.

The award followed his second place in the United States Snowboard Association Nationals' under-14 competition at Copper Mountain, in Colorado, and his New Zealand under-14 halfpipe title win.

Mr Bagley said at the time the money would go towards his training for events in New Zealand and overseas.

''My long-term goals are to get to the Olympics someday, maybe 2018,'' he said.

He also won Snow Sports NZ's emerging talent award that year and, with good mate Will Saxon, starred in a Weetbix kids commercial.

In 2012, Mr Bagley finished 10th in the snowboard halfpipe at the Winter Youth Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.

Sgt Ealson said police were keen to hear from anyone who might have witnessed the crash.

Anyone with information could contact Cromwell police on (03) 445-1999.

- Mark Price, Ryan Kean and APNZ


Hamish Bagley

2010: Snow Sports NZ Emerging Talent winner

2010: Starred in a Weet-Bix commercial ''Nothing stops a Weet-Bix Kid'', riding from snow to surf in a day

2010: Runner-up USA Snowboard Association Nationals' under-14 halfpipe competition (Colorado)

2010: New Zealand under-14 halfpipe champion

2012: Youth Winter Olympics finalist and top-10 finish in snowboard halfpipe (Austria)


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