Year in Review - April 2010

By Michele Hunter

The death of 15-year-old Samantha Mouat in a speedway crash on April 3 sent shockwaves through the city and an upwelling of grief for the girl whose love of life encompassed dancing to speedway racing.
The popular Otumoetai College pupil died instantly when her ministock hit the wall at Kaikohe Speedway's Easter Stampede. It prompted a huge outpouring of emotion in which family, friends and the speedway fraternity tried to come to terms with the tragedy.
Cut down in her youth, the family paid a tribute to the easygoing girl who "touched people's lives and hearts".
And a 97-year-old woman was robbed of the chance to enjoy the final years of her life when she was killed attempting to cross the highway at Paengaroa. She was hit by a ute towing a trailer as her 72-year-old son looked on.
A grim coincidence three days later saw an 18-year-old man die on the same stretch of highway after he was hit by a ute. The teen appeared to have been standing on a bend in the road, outside a motel driveway.
The common practice of cyclists and walkers listening to their iPods was suspected by police to have caused Kumiko Goodhall to be fatally distracted as she rode across the railway line near Bayfair roundabout. She was struck by a train during training for one of New Zealand's great adventures, riding the Central Otago Rail Trail.
And the vulnerability of Tauranga taxi drivers was highlighted for the third time in as many weeks when a female cabbie was robbed at knifepoint by a 19-year-old youth from the Mount.
However for random stupidity, nothing beat the actions of the person who threw a beer bottle from a car at Papamoa, hitting grandmother Mary Loader square in the face as she was on her morning walk.

Mrs Loader, 65, was unconscious for four days and needed reconstructive surgery, including five titanium plates inserted into her face.
Disturbing details of a toddler sitting in a cannabis haze emerged during a court case in which the girl's mother, Sharlene Paetai Thom, admitted possessing and selling the drug. Police found the girl sitting in the haze when officers raided the woman's Cameron Rd home.
Tauranga's challenge to build a museum without help from ratepayers took a tentative first step when the project's steering group supported siting the museum on Cliff Rd, next to the Rose Gardens. The volunteer trust established to drive the project forward now has to confirm the location and get on with the daunting task of establishing a museum.
The tough economic times saw a multimillion-dollar golf and residential resort near Katikati enter receivership for the second time. The 18-hole championship golf course, clubhouse and 70 sections were offered for sale by the receiver.
But as if to defy the trends, the penthouse in the southern tower of the Eleven high-rise development at the Mount sold for $5.5 million to a mystery man who was simply described as one of the country's wealthiest businessmen.
It was a case of a sheepish "sorry about that" when a 50-year-old Tauranga woman disappeared from a party thrown on a launch in the Bridge Marina. Reporting missing at 3.30am, it sparked a big search, with police fearing the worst until she emerged, larger than life, from another boat.
Another headline-grabbing incident scripted by showbiz saw Tauranga residents and tourist bosses infuriated when a Shortland Street episode portrayed the city as being intolerant of gays. Bisexual character Nicole complained that it was difficult to "come out" in Tauranga.
Tauranga's poignant Anzac Day service entered a new era when hundreds gathered in front of the new cenotaph beside Tauranga RSA's new home in what was formerly Fahy's Motor Inn in Greerton.
Serving alcohol to young teens brought the full force of the law down on Raymond Sayed and partner Pauline Crawford when the Liquor Licensing Authority ordered the permanent closure of their business, Omanu Wines and Spirits
A few days later, two members of the Filthy Few motorcycle gang were each fined $2000 when they appeared in court for sentencing on charges arising from a police raid on the gang pad in Birch Ave. Police busted an illegal bar and found evidence that $19,000 worth of alcohol had been bought for the club over a period of nine months.
Meanwhile, two million-year-old skeletons unearthed in South Africa were identified as part of a previously unknown species that scientists say fitted the transition from ancient apes to modern humans. They had an advanced hip bone and long legs.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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