Tributes for rescue pilot, DOC ranger

By Mike Dinsdale


Northland Conservation Board chairman Mita Harris has paid tribute to the two Far North men who lost their lives fighting a massive fire on the Karikari Peninsula last year.

Salt Air pilot John "Prickles" de Ridder, from Kerikeri, and Kaitaia Department of Conservation ranger William Macrae died on November 30, when their helicopter crashed at Karikari Bay while they were on their way to rescue people fleeing from the blaze.

The fire was arson and as yet, nobody has been charged in relation to it, despite extensive publicity and calls for information from the authorities.

At the Conservation Board's February meeting, Mr Harris acknowledged the sadness of the tragic deaths of Mr Macrae and Mr de Ridder on the department locally and nationally.

"The loss of these two men was major and would be felt in the community for years to come," he said.

Mr Harris said it had been a privilege to work with Mr Macrae over many years and he was not only a key member of the Kaitaia area staff, but throughout the whole department.

He said his passing would have a major impact on the department, "not only for the work he undertook, but his work ethic, experience, knowledge and personable nature".

"The legacy left behind by William Macrae and John de Ridder was an inspiration to those left behind to follow."

The board offered its sincere condolences to all involved.

- Northern Advocate

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