A young man died yesterday when his souped-up car was completely crushed in a high-speed smash - allegedly T-boned by a boy racer aged just 15.
Shaun FitzPatrick, 22, had signed up to participate in the controversial CannonBall Run street-legal car rally yesterday, in which 270 amateur racers circle Auckland in everything from Suzukis to Ferraris.
But at 2.50am yesterday morning, just hours before the rally was due to start, the Pakuranga man was killed by one of several cars racing through industrial Mt Wellington.
A stolen Subaru Forester ran a red light on Carbine Rd and hit FitzPatrick, who had right of way, shunting his car through an iron lamp-post and into a fence.
CannonBall Run organisers learnt of the fatality just before the event's 9am start - but made the decision to continue the rally regardless. Contestants drove down the southern motorway that morning, passing within sight of the cordoned off crash scene.
Auckland councillor George Wood said people had simply had enough of boy racers, and the city needed to find a new way of dealing with them.
Shocked CannonBall organiser Vaughan Philip said he had met FitzPatrick the day before to personally hand him his entry pack.
"Shaun was a new competitor and was very excited at the prospect of doing his first run," Philip said.
"Just a week ago he must have thought it was his lucky day when he won a $60, half-price deal to take part.
"Because his forms arrived so late I agreed to meet him in Auckland and we spent a few minutes just talking about cars. He was a nice lad who was looking forward to having fun at his debut CannonBall Run."
Philip said he only found out shortly before the event's 9am start that one of his competitors may have been involved in a serious incident, but he made a snap decision to carry on with the event.
"Because we had so little information at that point we just had to keep moving on with what was pre-planned," he said. "Between competitors, organisers and spectators there was about 700 people involved and I'd rather not have an angry mob on my case.
"The car community will be shocked that he has died.
"It's a tragedy and my heart goes out to Shaun's family."
That family gathered at father Kevin FitzPatrick's Howick home yesterday.
"I'm not doing too good," said the ashen-faced father.
FitzPatrick went to school at Howick College and studied at AUT University before getting a job at Slingshot.
Yesterday police arrested a 15-year-old boy and charged him with dangerous driving causing death.
Detective Senior Sergeant John Sutton said the boy's family members brought him to Auckland police station and turned him in.
The boy will appear in Auckland Youth Court next week.
The Subaru had allegedly been stolen from Manurewa.
Owner Nicole Russek, 21, told the Herald on Sunday the vehicle was swiped from her driveway less than two hours' before the smash.
"My dad woke me up at 1am to say he thought someone was stealing my car," she said.
"I jumped in my dad's old van and tried to follow them but they lost me pretty quickly.
"The Subaru is turbo-charged so my father's van had no chance. I only found out in the morning that my vehicle had later been involved in a fatal crash."
CannonBall Run entrant Daniel Smart, 23, from Pakuranga, said he drove past the crash site during the event but it hadn't put him off from taking part in future.
"I saw the wrecked vehicles but I had no idea that one of our guys was involved.
"It's a terrible thing to happen but it won't stop me competing again next year."
Another entrant, Anna Dentice, 25, from Whangaparoa, said: "It's very sad. But I hope this hasn't given the event a bad name."
Friends paid tribute to FitzPatrick on Facebook, with Adam Miller writing that life would not be the same without him: "Going to miss you bro. Not fair at all to have a life stolen away."
Strangers took to public forums to comment on the death, with a Trade Me poster named Carole calling it a tragedy for FitzPatrick's family.
Police say the investigation is ongoing and more charges could be laid.
They are appealing to the drivers of a modified silver vehicle and a green-coloured Toyota Corolla or similar vehicle to come forward.