27 Oct 2013

Police rule out sinister intent in driver's death

7:06 am on 27 October 2013

Police have ruled out any sinister or malicious intent in the death of a man killed when hit by a projectile while driving near Wanaka.

Rutger Telford Hale was originally from Auckland and had been living in the Hawea area for a few weeks.

The 22-year-old was driving along the Lake Hawea-Albert Town Road about 6.30am on Thursday when the object smashed through the windscreen and hit him on the head before flying out the back window.

His 26-year-old partner, who was unharmed, was able to lift his foot from the accelerator and steer the Subaru Legacy station wagon to the side of the road.

Detective Sergeant Brian Cameron, of Wanaka, says police are still not sure what the object was, but they don't believe it was a bullet because of the size of the hole in the windscreen.

"There was a hole in the windscreen which has been described by one of those people who first arrived as being fist-sized.

"There's been some contact with the interior of the vehicle as it has travelled through and exited through the rear window, which has been smashed in its entirety."

Mr Hale's partner described a white ute in front of the car and the driver of a white four-wheel-drive vehicle has been helping police with their investigation.

However, Mr Cameron said police are still not sure if the object actually came from the ute.

"By no means can I say with any degree of certainty that it has, but obviously the passenger in the vehicle has described a white utility travelling towards them at the time the incident occurred. So we have to base at this time our inquiry on that."

Police are still keen to hear from anyone who was near the accident scene on State Highway 6, between Hawea and Wanaka, between 6am and 7am on Thursday.

A post mortem examination was completed on Friday afternoon, but Mr Cameron says no details will be released until police have had time to fully digest the information.

He says it's also too early to draw any final conclusions from a forensic sweep of Mr Hale's car.

Forensic experts are still searching the area for the object itself.