Tragedy robs toddlers of father

By Kurt Bayer — with Amy McGillivray

The death of a former Katikati man killed in a tragic hedge-trimming accident has shocked the small town.

Mr Spackman was killed when he stepped out in front of a hedge trimmer.

Nigel Spackman, 34, had just finished trimming a farmer's macrocarpa hedge with an industrial machine and was about to move on to a roadside hedge when the accident happened just before 10am on Thursday.

Mr Spackman attended Katikati College between 1990 and 1996 where he met Katie, who would later become his wife.

Roy Nathan, who was in the same class as Mr Spackman at college, yesterday told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend he had not seen Mr Spackman since he left school but remembered him as a tall, lanky, athletic teenager.

''It looked like he came from a great home. That's a terrible, terrible tragedy for his family,'' he said.

Katikati College principal Neil Harray said he was not at the school when Mr Spackman attended but a few staff members remembered the couple.

''They remembered him as a pretty good all around kid who was happy,'' he said. ''The long-serving staff remember him fondly. There's a few people thinking of his family today.''

Teacher Joe Manukau said he taught Mr Spackman during his years at Katikati College.

''As far as I know, he was a good sportsman, he played soccer.''

Mrs Spackman was at home with newborn baby boy Patton and 21-monthold son Pearse on Thursday when a local policeman delivered the news that her husband Nigel had died.

''He was the best father in the world. He was Pearse's world,'' the 34-year-old said from her Canterbury home.

Police said he suffered serious head injuries when he stepped down from the tall machine and walked in front of the trimming blade, which was still operating. It appeared that Mr Spackman got out of his cab to check why the large spinning blade on the tall machine was not cutting as it had earlier.

Two workmates r ushed to Mr Spackman's aid and emergency services were called to the property, 4km from Waiau township in the Hurunui district.

St John Ambulance, police and a doctor also rushed to the scene but could not save his life.

Property owner Graeme Phillips, 64, was working up the road when a vet called on him to say something had happened at his place. He raced home to find emergency services and distressed workers at his front gate.

''I've got no idea how it happened, and I don't want to know either,'' Mr Phillips said. ''All the speculation in the world won't bring him back, and tonight two wee kids won't have Dad come home. It's a total tragedy.''

The image of Mr Spackman lying dead on the grass in the shade of the hedge would haunt him ''for the rest of my days'', Mr Phillips said.

The couple moved to the Hurunui dstrict 15 years ago, where Mr Spackman, a ''cheeky chappy'' with a dry wit, enjoyed pursuits such as rugby, hunting, fishing and camping.

But since his sons came along, ''family was his whole world,'' his wife said.

While admitting she was still in shock yesterday, Mrs Spackman believed she ''will be fine, eventually''.

Occupational Health investigators from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment were at the scene before Mr Spackman's body was taken away.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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