Friends mourn loss of ‘a great guy’ killed by pirates

Close friends of a Picton man killed by Panama pirates have spoken of their loss as they remember “a great bloke.”

A great, community-minded guy who loved his family is how Alan Culverwell is remembered by friends who are struggling to come to terms with the shock news of his death.

Friend and fellow paua diver Barry Chandler from Blenheim says he met Alan 30 years ago.

His friend’s death was like something from a bad movie, he says.

“It’s unbelievable. I heard through the Paua Association and couldn’t take it in.

“We’re a tight knit group and very close,” he says.

Alan Culverwell, 60, died last week defending his family and was shot at close range after pirates boarded the family’s berthed boat, the Aqua Lobo, while they slept.

His wife, Derryn Culverwell, suffered a machete blow to her shoulder. The couple’s daughter, 11, was also hurt in the attack, while their son was on board but uninjured.

Leandro Herrera and Avelino Arosemen appeared in court over the attack.

The pair were charged with aggravated homicide, robbery, criminal association and mistreatment of a minor. A third suspect, a minor, appeared in court separately.

Barry says he and Alan has spent a lot of time together over the years and enjoyed a long-standing joke at work over who could collect the most paua.

“He had a great sense of humour and when we were diving, we had a competitive thing going.

“I got him into hunting, and we played golf together – he’s one of the most obliging blokes I’ve met,” he says.

Barry says it was while Alan was building his house in Oyster Bay near Tory Channel that they got to spend more time together.

“I’d go up and see Al and have a coffee with him, help him lift a couple of beams.

“I’ll remember him for his practicality, common sense and drive.

“He was very forward thinking, very community minded. He was one of the guys who could just see the bigger picture.

“We’ll miss him.”

Paua Industry Council chief executive officer Jeremy Copper says he had meet Alan in the early 1990’s through work.

“But he soon become a friend.

“As we became more involved, I got to know him very well. He was one of the guys and the first person to put his hand up if something could be done.

“He’d always put his nose to the grindstone and get things done,” he says.

Jeremy says his motorbike-mad friend has always dreamt of getting his own boat and was delighted when he found the right one.

“He showered me with pictures of it.

“It was cheaper to sail it back from Florida to New Zealand so that’s what he did.”

The talented spear fisherman met his wife Derryn while she was a teacher at Stoke School near Nelson says Jeremy.

“I’ve known Derryn for a long time and am devastated for them.

“We will do anything we can to help,” he says.

A bank account has been set up to help Alan’s family. Donations can be made to BNZ account: 020-0500-0698118-000.

Parish priest dies on flight

A Blenheim parish priest has died on a flight taking him on an eagerly awaited trip to Rome.

Father John Pearce, 68, from catholic church, Star of the Sea Marlborough, died as his plane was taxiing for take-off at Marlborough Airport, Blenheim.

Efforts were made to revive the popular parish priest, but he died on board on Sunday afternoon.

Parish manager Ginetta Petersen says the parish had been “very shocked” by the news.

“We are all very shocked. He was very much into faith communication, he wanted to bridge the gap between faiths and religions.

“It is with great sadness and shock we announce that Star of the Sea Parish priest Father John Pearce CP, passed away as a result of a medical event in Blenheim at 1.30pm …”

Father John was on his way to Rome as part of a committee organising a landmark celebration for the Catholic church.

He was set to join his peers to help arrange a Passionist 300-year jubilee, to be held in Italy next year.

The flight to Auckland was delayed for two hours while passengers disembarked.

Funeral arrangements are being arranged and Father John’s body will be returned to Sydney, where he is originally from.

He moved to Blenheim in January 2017.

Ginetta says Father John had seemed in good health and had given a “great sermon at masses this weekend.

Father John was recently involved with the vigil held in Seymour Square for victims of the mosque attacks in Christchurch.

Killer cat?

It bounded out in front of their car – a black panther-like cat moving at speed.

Stunned Marlborough woman Juliearna Kavanagh from Picton has revealed how the huge animal leapt across the road, just a few feet in front of her car just before Ward.

The well-known business owner is warning people in the area to be careful in case the massive creature attacks.

She has already contacted police and Ministry of Primary Industries.

“It was in full flight; it was big and sleek and with a cat’s head and a huge tail,” she says.

Along with partner Warren Lewis, Juliearna was travelling on SH1 about 11.30pm, returning from Invercargill on Friday.

The pair were left bewildered by the strange encounter, says Juliearna who owns and operate Marlborough’s Hop on Hop off wine tour company and one in Queenstown.

A huge black cat leapt in front of Juliearna Kavanagh’s car. Photo: Supplied.

“We both looked at each other, thinking what the heck had just happened?

“We pulled off the road, slightly hysterical and went through every animal that it could possibly be, but nothing made sense.

“It was shocking,” Juliarna says.

There have been numerous reports of large cats in New Zealand’s South Island, with some dating back to the early 1900’s.

A pregnant puma was documented as having escaped from a circus in Lyttleton harbor and the possibility of using cougars was discussed as a way of controlling the thriving deer population in the Canterbury foothills.

But officials have always deemed the sightings to be of a feral cat.

Juliearna says she had slowed down to go around a bend when the cat leapt across the road.

“It was just there, right in front of our headlights, right out of the blue. It was so quick; it was either chasing something or had heard our car.”

The Escape to Picton owner says she has no doubt that what she saw was a Puma.

“I couldn’t live with myself if I’d kept quiet and then it attacked a small child or livestock.

“A big cat isn’t the first thing that we naturally thought of, after all we don’t live in a country where you expect to see them. But that’s what it was,” she says.

“I don’t scare easily, I’ve seen some shit, but it was big, quick and black and I was struck by how big it’s tail was.

“If that was a feral cat, it’s a feral cat on steroids. Curiosity killed the cat but it’s not the cat I’m worried about.”

A spokeswoman from Ministry of Primary Industries says MPI has received one recent call from a member of the public in relation to a sighting of what they believed was a ‘large cat’.

We have previously received calls over the years about similar sightings. MPI has investigated many photographs, footprints and hair, scat and faeces samples, and in each of those previous cases, we have concluded the sighting to be that of a large feral cat.”

Slippery pavers to be made safer

Paula Hulburt

A $2 million slippery predicament is set to be solved – by steam cleaning.

Slippery-when-wet pavers in Blenheim and Picton have posed a safety threat for unwary pedestrians.

Rather than replace the perilous pavers, Marlborough District Council bosses have agreed to put forward a re-sanding plan.

All glazed clay stones will also be re-sanded and daubed with a more slip-resistant coat

People have slipped when the pavers become wet. Photo: Supplied.

The move follows complaints from pedestrians who have reported fall related injuries.

Council’s Assets and Services Committee today agreed, subject to council approval next month, to take the proposal to the next stage.

Assets and services manager Richard Coningham says the pavers needed to be more “slip resistant”.

Installed in many towns and cities during the 1990’s and 2000’s, the walkways had been treated in the past.

But improved methods mean the pavers are ripe for a makeover.

“ … we now have access to improved treatments which will provide longer term resistance.

“While the treatment option is not a permanent fix and is likely to need reapplying every four to six years; it is the most cost effective”, Richard says.

The clay footpaths will need replacing in 20 years at a replacement cost of about $2 million, Richard says.

Treating the problem now and replacing later was a more “cost effective” option, he says.

“As most of the clay footpath paving in Blenheim and Picton’s CBDs is more than 20 years old, it’s likely that it will be replaced within the next 20 years, making treating now and replacing in the future the most cost-effective option.

“We know a number of people in Blenheim and Picton have suffered injuries after slipping over on the pavers, especially when it is wet.

“It’s great that we have a solution to reduce this from occurring in future”, he says.

Stolen tablets back with school kids

Thirty computer tablets stolen from a Marlborough school have been recovered by police.

In a statement, police say they found a vehicle in Picton on Monday evening with the tablets inside.

The tablets have been returned to Richmond View School in Blenheim where they were taken from over the weekend.

“A thank you all for your help – we located a vehicle in Picton on Monday evening and the stolen tablets were within it,” the statement says.

“One 36-year-old man from Blenheim has been arrested in relation to the burglary of the school.

“Great result”.

Principal Dave Pauling says the theft was discovered on Monday morning shortly before school started for the week.

“It’s such a low thing to do.

“This is the first time something like this has happened in 10 years and we are quite shocked but trying to move on,” he says.

Cyclist breaks neck in accident with ambulance

Paula Hulburt

A cyclist who broke his neck after an accident with an ambulance, was not taken to hospital by the crew who allegedly pulled out in front of him.

The Blenheim man suffered neck and spinal injuries according to a source.

His injuries were so severe he could have been paralysed, Marlborough Weekly has learnt.

Ambulance crew dropped the patient off at an urgent care clinic, just metres from the hospital.

Ambulance staff are assisting police with their enquiries.

St John’s Marlborough Territory Manager Murray Neal says the patient was assessed as having moderate injuries.

“St John confirms that a patient transfer vehicle was involved in an accident with a cyclist at the intersection of Alabama Road and Redwood Street at 10.32am in Blenheim on Sunday.

“The patient transfer vehicle had no patients on board at the time of the accident.

“One person was assessed by ambulance staff at the scene as having moderate injuries and was transported to Wairau Urgent Care Centre for further assessment.

“St John is assisting police with its inquiries”.

The accident happened after an ambulance allegedly pulled out, directly into the path of the cyclist.

His helmet was destroyed, and he was taken to the Urgent Care Clinic next to Wairau Hospital, before being transferred to the hospital itself for further tests.

He was later admitted to Burwood Spinal hospital in Christchurch.

Police confirmed they had attended an accident between an ambulance and cyclist.