Partner's plea for ute driver to come forward

By Mark Price

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.

The Alaskan partner of Rutger Hale, who was killed by a mystery object between Hawea and Wanaka almost two weeks ago, believes the mystery would be solved if the driver of a white utility came forward.

Speaking to the Otago Daily Times yesterday, Danielle Oylear recalled seeing an object about the size of a brick and the colour of cardboard smash through the windscreen of their Subaru, killing 22-year-old Mr Hale.

She believes the object came from the back of the white utility and that the driver must be aware by now the utility's occupants were involved.

"They are kind of a key."

Ms Oylear said the driver might be fearful of coming forward.

"I'd be scared as well of coming forward, not knowing what it meant for my life.

"But it's important for us and our lives to figure out what happened.

"It's not going to bring him back but it's going to help us move forward.

"He was an amazing person, and to not know why his life was cut so short ..."

Ms Oylear said she was "struggling" with the fact an intensive police search of the roadside failed to find the object.

"I don't want to see the worst in people but I guess the smaller the percentage chance of finding it out there, the larger percentage chance someone has taken it."

Ms Oylear said she and Mr Hale were travelling from Lake Hawea towards Wanaka, with the Subaru's lights on, about 6.25am on October 24. As their vehicle began to climb Maungawera Hill, they saw a utility coming down the hill towards them.

"It was a white truck, like a newer, nicer truck.

"In my mind, the closest thing I can relate it to is like a Chevy, like an American truck, not like a ute, not like a flatbed ute.

"It had full siding. I didn't see any details or anything on it."

The vehicle was the only one the couple encountered that morning and Ms Oylear said she paid attention to it.

The vehicle seemed to be slowing down. Neither vehicle was travelling fast.

Mr Hale "inched off" to the left to give the utility more room.

The next thing she saw was "something flying towards our windshield and I put my arm up because I could see it coming.

"It looked kind of like a brick or a two-by-four or something of that size.

"And it looked like it came off the back of the truck."

Ms Oylear said the object hit their windscreen when the bonnet of their car and the back of the utility were next to each other - the car slightly lower.

"Because of the precise timing, because it was exactly when this truck was passing us, and the fact that I saw it coming from an angle at the height of this truck, I can't imagine [the object coming from elsewhere].

"There are lots of unexplained things that happen in the world and you can't discount other possibilities, but it looked like a fairly big object and I can't imagine that getting kicked up off the road."

Ms Oylear said the light from the headlights might have affected her perception of the object's colour, but she considered the colour was "kind of like cardboard".

Unlike Ms Oylear, Mr Hale did not react to the object.

"The car didn't swerve; he didn't put on the brakes; he didn't react at all."

It was Ms Oylear who brought the vehicle to a halt, taking the wheel and moving Mr Hale's foot off the accelerator.

She considered running down the road in the direction in which the utility went.

"But I had to be there for Rutger. I couldn't leave him."

The couple had been together since meeting in a backpackers in New Zealand in February last year, and had intended to settle at Lake Hawea.

"He was my soulmate. I knew from the moment I met him, he was a keeper. We just connected on every level possible."

Police have interviewed the driver of a white utility but Ms Oylear said police had told her they did not think it was the right vehicle.

Ms Oylear said she had moved into a house in Lake Hawea and intended to go back to work at the Hawea Flat dairy farm where the couple were heading when Mr Hale died.

- Otago Daily Times

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