Tairua man‘s fatal mistake in flooded ford on property

A Coromandel man appeared to have misjudged the strength of a usually mild stream that transformed into a raging torrent of water, blocking the entrance to his home.

The 72-year-old was swept to his death while his vehicle became entangled in bush by the water as he tried to access his Hikuai School Rd property on Sunday evening.

Waikato road policing manager Senior Sergeant Pete van de Wetering said the property had a ford, which runs down from the Pinnacles in the Coromandel Forest Park, that crossed at the entrance to the man‘s section.

“There‘s a ford that crosses the creek and because that creek was so swollen with water it looks like his vehicle has been unable to cross on the ford and in fact the water has been too powerful and swept it off.”

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It appeared the man had got out of the vehicle to assess the raging stream and then he, at some point, ended up trapped underneath it.

The force of the water was so strong the rear of the vehicle ended up tangled in tree branches while the front of the vehicle was submerged, he said.

“The vehicle has stayed upright but it was left hanging with its rear caught on a tree that‘s fallen down across the stream and the front end of the car is partially submerged in the stream.”

“He‘s got himself stranded in this ford and it‘s swept his vehicle off the road.

“Our reconstruction suggests that he certainly got out of the vehicle of his own volition but then has been unable to escape the torrent of the waters.”

Van de Wetering labelled the man‘s death a “tragic accident”.

“It is a tragic accident and appears to be an error of judgment that the gentleman has made in attempting to cross this ford … and he hasn‘t appreciated the depth and the strength of the water which was crossing this ford as it clearly swelled considerably with the amount of water it‘s had to cope with and it‘s literally picked up the vehicle and skidded it off into the stream.”