Mourners farewell boat crash victim

By Amy Shanks

FATAL CRASH: Police at the scene of the jet-boating accident on the Ngaruroro River a week ago. PHOTO/PAUL TAYLOR HBT134162-18
FATAL CRASH: Police at the scene of the jet-boating accident on the Ngaruroro River a week ago. PHOTO/PAUL TAYLOR HBT134162-18

Devastated family and friends yesterday farewelled Dale Baker, "a top bloke", who lost his life in a jet-boating accident on the Ngaruroro River a week ago.

A funeral service for the Onaero resident was held at Waitara War Memorial Hall yesterday.

Among the mourners was partner Julie Williams who had been on the boat when it hit a willow tree just before midday last Saturday, during a sanctioned "club run" with two other craft from the Jet Boating New Zealand Taranaki Branch.

In a death notice, Ms Williams described the 51-year-old as her "dearly loved best friend", finishing with the line, " ... our journey had just begun".

Friend Darrell Nicholas, who knew Mr Baker from their days at Waitara High School, said the family were still very much in shock.

"They are holding up as best can be expected. Julie is struggling, they all are, it's so sudden."

Mr Baker had worked as a drilling rig supervisor in New Plymouth, Taupo and overseas - leaving a trail of friends in his wake.

"He was a top bloke, he helped everybody, he could never do enough for people; on the rig he was always Mr Safety, always helping, always smiling."

Mr Nicholas owned farmland bordering Mr Baker's north Taranaki rural property, adding that he was always willing to lend a hand.

He is survived by two children aged 16 and 25, as well as an ex-wife of 25 years, Sandra Baker.

Leanne Lilly, who was injured in the crash, was discharged from Hawke's Bay Hospital this week.

Mr Baker had been a "well liked," member of the Taranaki Jet Boating branch for about two years and was familiar with the Ngaruroro River.

Secretary Pam Frederickson said the small club of about 60 or 70 members were shattered by the news of his death.

Leanne Lilly, who was injured in the crash, was discharged from Hawke's Bay Hospital this week.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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