Cruel twist of fate ends love story

By Andrew Koubaridis, Lucy Ibbotson of the Otago Daily Times

Mourners hear of man who chased dreams, while hunt continues for object that smashed windscreen and killed him

Rutger Hale was killed when an unknown object crashed through his windscreen near Wanaka.
Rutger Hale was killed when an unknown object crashed through his windscreen near Wanaka.

Rutger Hale and Danielle Oylear's love story began with a chance meeting in a bar, but it was a cruel twist that tore them apart, his funeral in Auckland was told yesterday.

The couple met in Queenstown in 2012, while they were both looking for adventure - she from her native Alaska and he, from Auckland, who was never happy being still, and ready to tackle nature head on.

Mr Hale, 22, was killed last Thursday when he was struck in the head by an object that smashed through the windscreen while he was driving with Ms Oylear, 26, near Wanaka. She grabbed the steering wheel and managed to get his foot off the accelerator to stop the Subaru station wagon.

Yesterday, she spoke directly to him in an emotional tribute.

"You told me to love life and to live fully ... and to chase your dreams."

He had shown her how to "open my eyes" to the world around them by the way he embraced life and lived for each moment.

"You enjoyed life just like you wanted it to be." Even though they were now apart, she would now see him "in every moment".

Their initial meeting in the Queenstown bar came about after Mr Hale delayed a tramp as he waited for news about an ill friend.

They later worked in and explored Tasmania, flew to the United States and travelled through Canada to Ms Oylear's home in Alaska.

Mr Hale's grandmother Marilyn Matthew said "he was an amazing young man" whose life had been cut short far too soon. "It's not supposed to happen like this."

About 150 mourners at the Manukau Memorial Gardens heard that the couple had been back in New Zealand only a short time but had found jobs, and there was talk of a wedding.

Mr Hale's mother Lisa said she was "humbled I got to share my life with you". She spoke of his love of the outdoors that was never far away and began when he was a young boy, walking with her "for miles" while she was pregnant with his sister Raven.

A favourite saying was printed on the back of his service sheet: "Learn to do what you want to do. Live your dreams, make them a reality, take them from the place of imaginings and into the world of happenings."

Meanwhile, police investigating the incident are considering the possibility the mystery object was moved from the accident scene.

A police special search group from Christchurch spent a third and final day yesterday combing the road verges of the Maungawera Hill on State Highway 6.

Investigation spokesman Detective Sergeant Derek Shaw said the exhaustive roadside search of an area about 450m by 30m, using probes, metal detectors and weed-eaters to clear away dense scrub, had uncovered many items, including bottles, cans, rocks and hubcaps.

However, nothing had been found that could be implicated in the incident at this stage.

"We're still looking for that breakthrough."

With the search complete, police would "need to turn our minds to the fact that the object is outside the search area or, for whatever reason, has been removed from the search area", Mr Shaw said.

"It's just one of the many possibilities, bearing in mind we don't know what we're looking for."

If the item had been shifted, it was most likely done with "good intent, as opposed to anything malicious", but anyone who might have done so was urged to come forward.

"Especially within the first hour of the crash, a member of the public might have seen something on the road which they've removed, possibly more for safety ... which is perfectly understandable. It's just that if they have, it could be a critical part of our investigation."

The extent of this week's search indicated the level of importance police placed on finding the item.

"We want to work hard for our victim to solve it, but also we want to prevent whatever has happened from happening again, so that's our motivation."

While no further searches of the accident area were planned, it was hoped the steady stream of information and ideas from members of the public would continue.

"Sometimes people ponder things for a wee while but I'd urge them to come forward even if they think it's insignificant."

Police were also still interested in talking to the drivers of a boat-towing vehicle and a white four-wheel-drive utility which were both seen in the area at the time of the accident. One owner of a white utility had already spoken to police.

"But there's a high frequency of that type of vehicle here, so we're not narrowing it down to the one person who's been good enough to contact us."

- NZ Herald

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