Shock fire ruins scenic drive

By Amy Shanks

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A drive up Te Mata Peak to survey the view took a dangerous turn for local Tali Notoa when the van he had used burst into flames.

The Fire Service received "multiple calls" from Hastings residents yesterday who had noticed wisps of smoke rising from the lookout, about 3.30pm.

As the vehicle was gutted by flames that melted its tyres, burst windows and shocked onlookers, smoke thickened the air.

"I brought my visitors from [Samoa] up here. They arrived yesterday for a conference and celebration. I came up to show them the beauty of Hawke's Bay," Mr Notoa said.

"We got out, took a few pictures, then about 10 or 15 minutes later I saw smoke under the car. We tried to get some water but couldn't find any.

"It started slowly, then caught fire, flames got really high.

"The only option was to clear people away."

They were able to remove the vehicle's battery and pull out bags before flames appeared.

"It's a shame for me. I was very proud to show my visitors the view. It's a shame that's when it happened."

The incident left Mr Notoa, son AJ and three others stranded on the peak as they waited for a taxi, which was called by police.

It would not deter him from taking other guests to the popular tourist spot, as he often entertained visitors from overseas. "This is a place of interest and I will still bring them here. It's very beautiful."

Mr Notoa had had no other problems with the van, which he had used to transport guests and take his eight children to and from school for the past three years. "It could be worse. None of my kids were in the van, thank God for that."

Insurance would cover any cost incurred by towing the charred remains and help to buy a new family friendly vehicle.

By the time emergency services arrived, the hillside was packed with curious people who made the winding journey to find the source of the unusual black smoke.

Chief fire officer Rod Triplow said fire investigators were still unsure what had caused the fire, adding that it was not the first time they had been called to a blaze in the area.

"We have been to all sorts up here."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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