Lightning victim a 'popular man who lived life to the full'

By Beck Vass

An Auckland man killed by lightning has been described as a popular and loving family man.

Both Roger Francis McGill, 61, and his horse died instantly when Mr McGill was struck on the helmet by forked lightning during an invitational hare-hunting event known as the Northland Hunt near Dargaville on Tuesday.

Auckland man Ivan Bridge, who has known Mr McGill for about six years and was on the hunt, said he was mourning the loss of a "lovely" family man who "lived life to the full".

Mr McGill is understood to be survived by his wife and two children, aged about 7 and 9, as well as an older family from a previous marriage.

He was an avid skier and sailor and had a business which specialised in motivational business coaching, Mr Bridge said.

"He was a very popular man. I don't think you'd have anyone with a negative comment about him. He loved life. He was quite a raconteur."

Mr McGill was also understood to have had an active involvement in Auckland's theatrical scene and had also been involved in the Australian Army, Mr Bridge said.

Meanwhile a witness has described how bolts of forked lightning struck near a group of hunters during the hunt before Mr McGill died.

Whangarei woman Jeannet Penney, who was riding nearby on the same farmland, described a terrifying scene as lightning crashed around the frightened horses.

"There were lightning bolts, sheet lightning and forked lightning all around us," she said.

"All of a sudden there were lightning bolts everywhere. There was sort of six around us - left, right and centre. There was nothing we could do. We were just in shock, really.

"There wasn't a lot of time to sort of figure out exactly where they hit until someone screamed ... 'There's a man down' ... and ran over with a horse."

Northland Hunt had a team of fully qualified medical staff on the scene within minutes.

Six other people who were riding in close proximity to Mr McGill were taken to a medical centre in Dargaville for treatment.

Four were admitted to Whangarei Hospital with minor injuries which included burns and heart palpitations.

Ms Penney said her sympathy went out to Mr McGill's family.

The Northland Hunt - an invitational sports event - was continuing today with the family's support, she said.

"He would have wanted that and the family want that ... He would want us to keep going."

Ms Penney said she had met Mr McGill only recently but had spoken to him the night before he died during a social at a local hall.

"We were chatting to him about how much he loved hunting. We really feel for the family. It's an absolutetragedy."

Ms Penney said she was also grateful the consequences were not worse, with the potential existing for lightning to have struck more horses and riders.

Sergeant Jonathan Tier of Dargaville police said police were not investigating and the matter would not be passed on to a coroner.

He said there had been enough witnesses and under the new Coroner's Act, the coroner now had the power to declare that Mr McGill died from the lightning strike without causing the family any additional stress associated with a post mortem.

- NZ Herald

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