Fire services rushed to put out the fire at the Forum in February this year. Photo: Matt Brown.

Tea towels likely cause in Forum fire

Tumble-dried tea towels are being blamed as the most likely cause of a blaze which caused about $1.5 million dollars of damage.

Official investigations into the Forum fire in Blenheim have revealed the hot tea towels likely sparked the fire.

The inner-city fire in February this year caused disruption, damage and heartache for several local business and left a hefty bill for building owners.

Building owner Toni Gillan says the consequences of the fire have been devastating.

She says the building is still being remediated but in the meantime CBD Café owners, who declined to comment, had moved out.

There were two fire investigations as well as an electrical expert brought in from Wellington to determine the cause of the fire, Toni says.

But there was no definitive cause found.

Emergency services were called to the CBD Café in February this year.

Witnesses at the scene at the time described billowing, black smoke coming from the popular eatery.

The café and other businesses were closed at the time and no one was hurt.

The dozen tenants at the central development went without power for about a month – some much longer.

Many businesses – like the popular Dolce restaurant, having to shut their doors until services were restored.

The Marlborough Cancer Society found new premises and aren’t likely to return, Toni says.

Fire & Emergency New Zealand specialist fire investigator Craig Piner says insurance specialists believed the tea towels self-ignited.

“They believe that these towels didn’t spend long enough in the dryer’s cool cycle before being placed in a store room, self-heating and starting the fire,” Craig says.

“They therefore believe that the fire cause was accidental self-ignition of cleaning towels.”

Craig says neither the insurance company or Fire & Emergency found evidence to suggest that it was a deliberately lit fire and found nothing suspicious surrounding the cause.

“This is a good example of materials self-igniting after washing and drying.

“We remind people who use clothes driers to ensure that the full cool down cycle is completed before removing clothes from the drier.

“This allows clothes etc the opportunity to cool sufficiently and prevents this sort of fire occurring.”

Several restaurants have gone up in flames from the spontaneous ignition of oil-contaminated tea towels.

It took more than a dozen fire appliances to extinguish a blaze in a Hamilton restaurant, in 2016, caused by tea towels that had been pulled out of a dryer and left in a basket in the rear of the restaurant.

A fire at West Coast school, in 2015, was caused by rags and tea towels in a clothes dryer combusting about 20 minutes after the dryer switched off.

CBD Café owners declined to comment.

Police are appealing for sightings of missing 31-year-old Melissa Ewings from Clarence.

Police appeal for sightings of missing woman

Police are appealing for sightings of missing 31-year-old Melissa Ewings from Clarence.

Melissa told a friend she was going for a walk to the Clarence River on Sunday afternoon.

She was reported missing when she didn’t turn up for work yesterday.

Melissa’s friends and family have serious concerns for her welfare and police urge anyone who may have seen her in the Clarence area on Sunday to contact 105, quoting file number 200922/5064.

Fire and Emergency representatives meeting with the Marlborough Local Advisory Committee. Photo: Supplied.

Emergency planning

A new way of tackling fire and emergency planning is underway across the region.

Members of the Fire and Emergency Marlborough Local Advisory Committee have met up in person for the first time.

Local Advisory Committees (LACs) are responsible for providing independent advice from a local perspective to the Fire and Emergency Board to inform local emergency planning.

Marlborough LAC chair Trevor Hook says the committee’s first face-to-face meeting last week was a tangible step forward for the committees and for Fire and Emergency.

“It was a valuable opportunity to come together as a committee and to meet with members of Fire and Emergency’s regional leadership team.

The Committee is looking forward to contributing to the strategic direction of Fire and Emergency, with a focus on the needs of the local community,” he says.

Fire and Emergency Area Manager for Tasman-Marlborough Grant Haywood says it was great to be part of the first meeting.

“One of Fire and Emergency’s main strategic priorities is building resilient communities.

“To do this, we must have a deep understanding of communities’ needs so we can ensure our services remain effective

“This first meeting is a big step forward in ensuring that our local and national planning reflects our community’s voice.”

Gareth Root died after his car plunged into a river at a local campground. Photo: File.

Coroner rules over cause of death

A man who drowned when his car plunged into the Opaōa River was over the legal driving limit and had taken drugs.

Gareth Root, 35, drowned after crashing his car into the river at the Top 10 Holiday Park on 29 December 2018.

A coroner has ruled that the victim’s driving was the ultimate cause of death but noted poor signage may have contributed.

In his findings, coroner David Robinson says police has identified the absence of signs or marker posts.

These could have helped highlight a sharp bend in the road running through the campground.

“While ultimately Mr Root’s death was due to the manner of his driving, there may be some merit in the camping ground considering the installation of some signage to highlight the corner,” he wrote

Toxicology testing confirmed Gareth was more than three times over the legal blood alcohol limit.

Cannabis and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) were found in his system.

Gareth and another resident at the park had been drinking together on the night he died. The father of one was helped to bed about 10.30pm.

Police later got reports of a black Hilux being driven erratically around the park.

Witnesses say they had heard “loud crashing sounds” as the vehicle hit trees, other cars, and a tent.

A driver near the park later noticed the Hilux stopped “precariously” on the riverbank.

But by the time he managed to get to the scene, the car had rolled and was underwater. The doors could not be opened.

Based on evidence at the scene, the Serious Crash Unit determined that Mr Root’s vehicle failed to negotiate a bend and left the road.

police

One dead in boating tragedy

A person has been killed and two others injured after a boat smash in the Marlborough Sounds.

An injured boatie managed to alert emergency crews who rushed to Okiwi Bay about 7.25pm on Sunday night.

The fatally injured victim was in a critical condition but died on the way to hospital.

Yesterday morning, Maritime NZ announced it had launched an investigating the deadly on-water collision as Marlborough’s harbour master revealed he was looking for more information to help piece together what had happened.

Scene investigations are underway in the tight-knit community which has about 80 permanent residents.

Police were called to Okiwi Bay, about 25 kilometres from Rai Valley on the way to French Pass, about 7.25pm on Sunday and the Nelson Marlborough Rescue crew were called in.

Police revealed yesterday morning that one person had died.

Okiwi Bay Voluntary Rural Fire Force fire chief Ian Montgomery says the collision happened near where boats were moored in the harbour.

“It was very, very dark and the cloud cover was quite low last night, ” he says.

Marlborough Coastguard President David St John said Coastguard did not attend the incident.

A spokeswoman from Nelson Marlborough Health says one patient is in a stable condition at Wairau Hospital.

police

Horror crashes claim three lives, injures more

A third month of horror crashes on a notorious stretch of Marlborough road has turned deadly.

The string of serious accidents on SH1 since May has seen three people killed and many others seriously injured.

But while the road is included as part of a wider safety review, road bosses have put the deaths down to chance.

Seddon man Damian Pollock died on 2 July after a ute left the road between Blind River Loop Road and Tetley Brook Road.

Damian Pollock was killed when his ute left the road at the beginning of July.

His devastated aunt, Theresa Pollock, says people need answers.“If it was driver’s error, we still need answers after hearing so many bad things about the road between Blenheim and Ward.

“If awareness is put out there maybe it could save a life.”

Damian, who just started a new job as a fisheries worker, was the first person to be killed on the road this month.

On Friday, a head-on collision between a ute and an SUV just south of Redwood Pass Road killed one person and seriously injured another.

One person escaped with moderate injuries.

Meanwhile, about ten minutes prior to the fatal accident, a vehicle left the road in the Weld Pass.

An accident on 21 May injured several.

A Waka Kotahi (New Zealand Transport Agency) spokeswoman says safety improvements have recently been proposed for the Weld Pass area and referred to a community engagement report from 2018.

“Clusters of road deaths do occur from time to time but unless they are on the exact same spot they tend to be just part of the range of statistics over time,” the spokeswoman says.

She says if the accidents were in the same place, NZTA staff would be looking at the condition of the highway surface and “anything else” which could be contributing, such as ice patches.

The 22km stretch of highway has had at least six serious accidents requiring emergency services since May.

Timeline

21 May – Young mother Jamie Miller, three children, and one other were rushed to hospital following a crash at the corner of Roadhouse Drive and State Highway 1. Jamie was flown to Nelson Hospital with serious injuries.

12 June – A freight truck and trailer left the road on a sweeping bend near the Blenheim side of Redwood Pass Road. The driver escaped with moderate injuries.

2 July – A ute left the road between Blind River Loop Road and Tetley Brook Road killing the driver, Damian Pollock.

12 July – A car rolled near Riverlands at about 6.20pm, killing the driver, who is yet to be named.

17 July – A head-on collision between a ute and an SUV just south of Redwood Pass Road killed one person and seriously injured another. One person escaped with moderate injuries.

Nate Dyer, left, with Mike Newman from Meaters. Photo: Supplied.

Brave mum defies odds after horror smash

Seconds before the car struck, Jamie Miller, 29, closed her eyes and braced for the worst.

The Blenheim mum broke her pelvis, fractured her back and ribs and damaged both her windpipe and liver.

Now she has defied the odds, walking less than two weeks after a horror smash that could have killed her and her children.

The brave mum is already back on her feet, using a walker, and is back home with her family after being discharged from Wairau Hospital on Friday.

“I remember pulling out and seeing the car coming towards me and knew it was going to happen.

“We’re just lucky it turned out the way it did. It could have been much, much worse,” she says.

And the family want to pass on their thanks to the community for all their support, especially Mike Newman from Meaters of Marlborough who donated $250 of meat and $100 cash.

Jamie spent an hour trapped in the wreckage of their family car while emergency crews battled to free her. She was then flown to Nelson Hospital by helicopter.

“The hospital staff have all been amazing,” Jamie says. “Both our families have been really supportive too.”

Jamie was knocked unconscious by the impact of the crash which happened on 21 May at the the intersection of SH1 and Roadhouse Drive, in Riverlands.

She suffered severe lacerations to her head and has two black eyes.

She had just dropped her partner, Nate Dyer, off at Vent Mechanical Repairs where he works, minutes before the crash, she says.

“It was like I was dreaming, like a nightmare really. I remember asking about my children but don’t remember being in the helicopter or seeing Nate there,” she says.

“I was very, very lucky to be honest, as was the driver of the other car.

“Nate heard the sirens but didn’t think much of it until a truck driver told him it was me and the children and he just rushed to the scene.”

Their youngest child, who turns 2-years-old in July, broke her collarbone, and fractured her arm. The 3-year-old broke his femur and the 7-year-old suffered a hit to his head and two black eyes.

Jamie believes the child car seats saved their lives.

“The two youngest were in their car seats and the oldest was sitting in between them wearing a seatbelt.

“That’s what saved him, his siblings’ car seats, they saved his life.

“I blamed myself at first, but it was a freak accident, nobody’s fault

“It makes you think a lot about life and what matters.”

A Give a Little page has been set up to help with costs while the family recover.

To make a donation visit https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/nathans-story

Three siblings were hurt after a two-car crash in Riverlands. Photo: Supplied.

Children recovering after car crash horror

Two young children are being cared for in hospital following a horror car crash that has left their mum in intensive care.

Jamie Miller and her three small children were hurt in a serious car accident at Riverlands on Thursday morning.

The devoted mum was flown by helicopter to Nelson Hospital suffering severe injuries and faces six months in a wheelchair.

She has since transferred to Wairau Hospital where two of her children are being looked after breaking bones in the crash.

Partner Nathan (Nate) Dyer is taking time off work to care for his family wjho have also been left without a car following the smash.

A Nelson Marlborough Health Board spokeswoman says both children and their mother are at Wairau Hospital in a stable condition.

The two-car accident happened at the intersection of State Highway 1 and Roadhouse Drive, in Riverlands at around 8.20am as people were driving to work and school.

Nate’s mother Lianne Budny from Blenheim has set up a Give A Little page to help the young family with ongoing costs.

“It’s hit this young family very hard,” she says.

She says Jamie faces a long recovery time.

“Jamie was flown to Nelson Hospital and was rushed to ICU with severe injuries and is unable to walk.

“She will have a lengthy time in hospital and a long recovery. The two youngest are still in hospital recovering from broken bones.

“The money raised will contribute towards rent and ongoing bills as Nathan is unable to work while Jamie is recovering as he will be taking care of the kids.

“His work, Vent Mechanical Repairs have been very supportive.

“We would appreciate any kind of help or donations through this tough time and long recovery, thank you.”

A police spokeswoman says investigations into the crash are ongoing.

To donate, search givealittle.co.nz/cause/nathans-story

A fire has broken out up the Taylor Pass. Photo: Supplied

Gum tree flare up at Taylor Pass

Marlborough fire crews are fighting a blaze tearing through gum trees up Taylor Pass Road.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand shift manager Jonathan Ditmer says ten crews and two helicopters are fighting the flare up.

He says emergency services were called to the blaze, 3km up the road from the Taylor Dam, at 3.15pm.

“At 4.20 80 per cent of the fire was contained,” he says.

Crews from Blenheim, Rarangi, Korimiko and Northbank are attending.

An injured paraglider was spotted by drone. Photo: Supplied.

Drone rescue for paraglider

A seriously injured paraglider was rescued from remote farmland after he was spotted by a drone.

Emergency crews spent 45 minutes searching for the paraglider who crashed about 12.45pm on Monday.

A drone pilot, called into help police and fire crews find the missing man, discovered him at Longpoint near Ward Beach.

The injured man is believed to have spinal injuries and warned rescuers he is also a possible Covid-19 risk.

He was flown by helicopter to Wellington Hospital shortly after 2.10pm.

A police spokeswoman says emergency services were alerted at 12.45pm.

“Emergency services responded to a report of a paraglider crashing on a farmland near Ward Beach Road around 12.45pm.

“The person was located around 1.30pm and flown to hospital with serious injuries.”

The paraglider was unable to activate his locator beacon due to his injuries.

Four-wheel drive vehicles searched farmland in the area where the man was last seen.

But it was a drone pilot who spotted the man on the ground around 50 metres from the sea.

The man has told emergency personnel he has had recent contact with a couple who have possibly been exposed to Covid-19.

Emergency workers were alerted to the possibility of infection and will follow procedures.