Man killed in crash on way back from Christchurch named

Police work at the scene of a fatal car accident near Palmerston yesterday. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Police work at the scene of a fatal car accident near Palmerston yesterday. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Police have named the man who died in a crash near Palmerston early yesterday. 

Police said he was 49-year-old Mohamed Elmi. 

The death was a further tragedy for the South Otago Muslim community. Mr Elmi was returning from helping relatives affected by the Christchurch terror attacks.

Police reported Mr Elmi had died after the single-vehicle crash on State Highway 1 near Palmerston, northeast of Dunedin, about 3am yesterday.

They said Mr Elmi, who was the sole occupant of the vehicle, died at the scene after his car came to rest in a ditch adjoining the northbound lane at the intersection of SH1 with Bushey Park Rd.

Clutha District Council held a special service before its committee meeting this afternoon, at which Mr Elmi and the victims of the Christchurch terror attack were remembered.

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan, Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker, Silver Fern Farms regional general manager Silvio Tenci and Mr Elmi's colleague, Finegand halal supervisor Abdi Asman Korir spoke to gathered members of the South Otago Muslim community and supporters in a sombre ceremony marked by tears.

Mr Cadogan said the events of recent days had "challenged us all".

"As a district, we share in your grief; you are a valued and respected part of our community. We want you to know that you are safe. We want you to know that you are wanted," he said.

Mr Tenci said the "double tragedy" of Mr Elmi's death had only added to the grief his colleagues were already experiencing.

"To have to face the death of their colleague this week while returning from mourning with family in Christchurch was truly the last straw. But among all the horror and grief of recent days, I've been amazed at their response."

Mr Korir thanked the South Otago community for its well wishes.

"We believe this is a country where everyone can have peace among the creation of God. Thank you to you all and to the community for your compliments and well wishes."

Workers and officials at Silver Fern Farms' Finegand freezing works told the Otago Daily Times Mr Elmi was a member of the South Otago plant's eight-strong halal slaughterhouse team.

He had left for Christchurch on Saturday to console family members after a relative had been killed in Friday's terror attack.

It is understood he had been returning overnight in order to resume work on the plant's Wednesday morning shift when the accident occurred.

Silver Fern Farms chief executive Simon Limmer said the close-knit team, and wider workforce, had been ''devastated'' by recent events - feelings compounded by yesterday's tragedy.

The Finegand plant had closed early yesterday to allow friends and colleagues to be with loved ones, and would ''wind down quietly'' towards the long weekend out of respect for Mr Elmi.

''Given this double tragedy, we made the decision to temporarily cease production at Finegand today,'' Mr Limmer said.

''It's important to add, however, that these guys have been amazing, and have wanted to keep working as much as possible despite the circumstances.

''I think there's been a collective, shared comfort within the whole workforce in the normality and routine of work, which has left me proud of their response.''

The company employed about 60 Muslim halal workers across its 14 plants nationwide, and many more Muslims within the general workforce, Mr Limmer said.

Silver Fern Farms was providing a range of support services to staff affected by the Christchurch attacks.

A colleague of Mr Elmi, who did not want to be named, said fellow team members had ''taken the situation pretty hard''.

''There's still a wee bit of shock. People just don't know how to take it.

''But there's a good team spirit at Finegand, and hopefully as a shed we can rally round and see what we can do for the guys and their families.''

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan expressed shock and grief at the news of the accident yesterday, describing it as ''another fatality'' ensuing from recent events.

''The whole situation has been a tragedy and, as a community, our love and thoughts go out to this member of our community, his family and friends at this terrible news.

''It's tragedy upon tragedy, sadly.''

The council will hold a minute's silence to mark recent events during its committee meeting in Balclutha this afternoon.

richard.davison@odt.co.nz

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