Forestry worker dies after four-hour delay to treat injury

By Jimmy Ellingham

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A Northland forestry worker didn't get to hospital for more than four hours after he was struck by a log and his distraught mother wants to know why.

Damian Lee Maungarongo Tai died from injuries suffered when working at a forestry block at Pakotai, northwest of Whangarei, on Wednesday last week.

Severely injured, the 37-year-old father of four didn't arrive at hospital until 2.30pm, about four hours after he was struck.

His mother Karo Hikairo says she doesn't want to blame anyone for the delay, but she wants answers.

"It was a horror show," she said. "There's someone hurt here and he's dying right there, lying in all the dirt with his body smashed to smithereens. But he's still talking.

"I'm so proud of my boy. He stayed awake the whole time with his horrific injuries. His boys [colleagues] were around him. It was raining. It was getting cold. They were all waiting for the helicopter. They were all waiting for the doctor."

Ms Hikairo said her son was still conscious when he arrived at hospital and went into surgery, but by the time she arrived from Coromandel he was no longer awake as infection spread through his body.

He was in intensive care but died on Good Friday morning, she said.

An ambulance arrived on the scene about 40 minutes after Mr Tai was struck but St John Far North territory manager Ben Lockie said the injured man then needed to be carried up a steep 120m bank. He said the task was "very difficult" and there was an initial reluctance to move Mr Tai because of the severity of his injuries. The Northland Rescue Helicopter was called, too, but couldn't land because of bad weather.

Ms Hikairo said the timing of her son's death was especially tragic as he was looking forward to his two oldest children visiting at Easter, the first time he'd seen them in two years.

He was farewelled at a tangi at Te Keeti Marae in Otorohanga.

Mr Tai went to high school at Hato Petera College in Auckland. After working in forestry around the country, he ended up in Whangarei where he made friends, was in a relationship and took up boxing. He was making a name for himself under the ring name of "Mau". He had a softer side, too. He liked to make home movies, and write songs and poetry, Ms Hikairo said.

His mates at the Whangarei Boxing Gym are having their own memorial tonight - a barbecue and a few beers.

Mr Tai was a heavyweight and had won all three of his corporate fights. The next step was making a name for himself in the amateur ranks.

"I thought he was very tough. He was a big boy, tough as an ox. He was a good fighter and a really good bloke," said Tim Bowman, from the gym. "He was a close mate of mine, too."

- Northern Advocate

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