An 18-year-old assistant slaughterman is fighting for his life after being shot in the shoulder in a "freak accident" after a bullet ricocheted off a steer during a home kill.

The teenager was rushed to Auckland City Hospital by helicopter just after 11am yesterday. He was in a critical condition and underwent emergency surgery after the bullet hit him at a property on Peak Rd, Helensville.

Police said the slaughterman shot the steer successfully, but the bullet somehow ricocheted off the beast's head and hit the youth in the shoulder.

Westpac rescue helicopter advanced paramedic Marcel Driessen arrived at the farm to find the young man lying in a paddock about 30m from two dead cattle.


"There were two dead beasts, so presumably they had already killed one ... The second one is where it possibly went wrong. Our understanding is it travelled through the beast, but it may have ricocheted off his head, and hit this chap in the left upper shoulder some distance away."

The bullet left a wound in his upper left chest about 7mm wide, and was still embedded as he was flown to Auckland City Hospital.

He was "confused", barely talking and semi-conscious in a "nearly dead" state, Mr Driessen said.

Officers were still at the property yesterday completing a scene examination. They had spoken to the slaughterman and were also interviewing witnesses.

The closest home-kill service to Peak Rd is Kaipara Meat Processors. When contacted yesterday the manager hung up on the Herald after saying: "No thanks, no comment."

The Department of Labour confirmed it had also launched an investigation into the shooting, but could not comment further last night.

A West Auckland slaughter assistant said last night that bullets ricocheting off beasts were common.

"It is quite easily done," she said. "If it's an older animal they have really heavy heads and a bullet can ricochet off very easy. But it's a real fluke that it happened and it hit someone."