Don't take a lift from strangers, say police

By Kaysha Brownlie

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After nearly a month police are yet to identify the driver of a car that a hitch hiker climbed into and was killed when it crashed.

Hemi James Rapaea, 61, of New Plymouth died on March 10 when the grey Ford Fairmont he was in crashed on SH2 near Te Hauke.

The car appeared to roll and ended up in a ditch at 3.50am near the intersection of Boundary Rd, New Zealand Transport Agency said.

Following the crash, police told Hawke's Bay Today Mr Rapaea was of "no fixed abode" and was apparently picked up by a driver as he was hitchhiking from Palmerston North to Napier.

The driver of the car fled the crash scene before emergency services arrived.

Police confirmed on Friday they were talking to two people about what happened in the early hours of the morning of the crash when it happened. Investigations were ongoing but no other information could be released at this time.

At the time of the crash Senior Constable Cory Ubels said it appeared there had been no evasive action taken by the driver and it appeared the Ford was the only car involved in the crash.

A St John Ambulance spokeswoman said Mr Rapaea had been worked on at the scene but was unable to be revived.

A drone was used to search the area to find any other possible people who may have been in the car, but dense toetoe and maize bushes meant police were unable to locate the driver on foot.

Police said it was not known how or why the car crashed. .

Yesterday a police spokeswoman said for people's own safety they should not hitch hike or accept rides from people they do not know.

"If you do decide to hitch hike, police strongly advise that you do not travel alone."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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