Anna Leask

Anna Leask is a police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Argentine men loved their great NZ trip

The tourists hit a truck as they tried to pass within 50m of a bend, killing four of them and critically injuring one. Photo / One News
The tourists hit a truck as they tried to pass within 50m of a bend, killing four of them and critically injuring one. Photo / One News

One of four tourists killed in a head-on crash was to return home to Argentina next month with his girlfriend and was the nephew of a popular South American singer.

Another had been here about four months and was travelling the country with family, living his dream.

All four were loving New Zealand and raved to loved ones back home about their adventures, posting photos online of themselves at some of the country's best-known attractions.

Nicolas "Nico" Lallana Ursic, 27, Luciano Pucheta, 19, German Caceres, 35, and Agustin Donofrio, 25, were killed at National Park on Wednesday night as they headed home from their first indoor soccer match together.

The Argentine nationals died when they pulled out within 50m of a bend to pass a truck on State Highway 4 and drove into another truck coming in the opposite direction.

A fifth man, 25-year-old Chilean Benjamin Blake, survived, but suffered critical injuries.

He remains in Waikato Hospital and his father, a doctor in Santiago, is on the way to New Zealand to be with him.

The Weekend Herald has learned Mr Ursic was the nephew of Silvia Lallana, a leading Argentine folk singer. Ms Lallana told South American media he was her brother's son.

He had been travelling for about a year across Europe and spent four months in New Zealand with his girlfriend, Gala Cordoba. They were to return to Argentina next month.

Mr Ursic's father was rushing home from a trip abroad to be with his family. Ms Cordoba did not learn of the crash until 10 hours after it happened. She was hurrying to get paperwork sorted out so she could go home with Mr Ursic in about three days.

Ms Lallana said her family were suffering deep pain over Mr Ursic's death. "Thanks for the messages of love, understanding [after] the incomprehensible," she wrote on Facebook yesterday.

It is understood Mr Pucheta, known as Lucho or Lu, came to New Zealand with family members about four months ago. He travelled around the country before taking a job at Whakapapa skifield.

His cousin Mati Pucheta wrote a moving tribute online saying they were soul mates.

"What to say? How to put into words everything that goes through my head right now and all I feel ... I find it almost impossible to express with mere words the wonderful person you are, and all I'm thinking right now," he wrote. "Only 18 years, a life lived and most importantly a lifetime to live, and you left."

He said hearing news of the crash was horrible. "Do not understand how could this happen to you ... The only thing I can think to do now is to remind you of our moments of greatest happiness together as a family.

"I have many positive memories to mind right now, but it seems important to emphasise football. Yes, it may seem ridiculous that I want to highlight those mornings and evenings we shared in a field ...

"Those mornings and afternoons will remain in my memory for the rest of my life, because I saw you were happy, you were free, you forgot all your problems and you were just enjoying your sport."

He said Mr Pucheta was an amazing person, kind, honest and someone who always looked out for his friends - and for ways to make them laugh and happy.

"How can I forget that beautiful smile ... Honestly I can continue writing a lifetime, but do not think that achieves calm from the terrible pain I feel knowing you gone. I'll miss you a lot genius."

A mass was held for Mr Pucheta in Cordoba, where he grew up and attended university.

- NZ Herald

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