Councillor injured in ‘freak accident’ doing community work

Latham Martin
Latham Martin
A good deed for the community took a turn for the worse for Hokitika councillor Latham Martin this week.

The former Westland deputy mayor (26) was injured in a "freak accident" on Tuesday during a spree of voluntary work.

It is understood he was operating a weed-eater along Gibson Quay, when a small stone chip flicked up and hit his chest, causing internal damage to a main artery.

He collapsed and was taken to Te Nikau Hospital in Greymouth, where he underwent surgery to stop the bleeding. About 9pm he was evacuated aboard the Life Flight air ambulance, which was called to Hokitika Airport to take him to Wellington Hospital.

Once in Wellington his condition was quickly stabilised.

Westland Mayor Bruce Smith said Cr Martin had phoned him from his hospital bed in "good spirits" despite the ordeal.

"He was in very good spirits. He was actually asking me about something on the council agenda. He was still thinking about the projects he’s trying to get knocked off," Mr Smith said.

In recent days Cr Martin has been leading a volunteer workforce in tidying up the town, from mowing grass berms to painting balustrades in the town centre and restoring a dilapidated bus shelter in Rimu just the day before the accident.

"He’s been out there championing the clean-up of lots of little areas around Hokitika," Mr Smith said.

At the time he had been operating a weed-eater on overgrown grass along the quay.

"I got a hell of a fright when I heard what happened."

Anybody who had used a weed-eater had experienced a stone flicking up, Mr Smith said.

"But this was just a little chip ... You couldn’t even see [a mark]. It was a freak accident. [But] with the weight of the medical services we’ve got these days he’s been well attended."

The Christchurch-based medivac plane was unable to fly in due to bad weather, so the Life Flight air rescue ambulance, used for urgent medical and accident transfers, was deployed from Wellington instead.

A website tracker shows it touched down at Hokitika Airport shortly after 9pm and left about 40 minutes later.

Mr Smith happened to be in Wellington on Wednesday with wife Jenny on holiday, and was on the way to visit Cr Martin when the Guardian contacted him.

"We’ll give him our best wishes from the community, which I’m sure a lot of people will be wanting him to know." 

 — Hokitika Guardian

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