Former Haumoana volunteer fire chief Bill Tims has been killed and his wife Natalie seriously injured in a tragedy at one of the best-known intersections in the United States.

The couple were walking when they were struck by a motorcycle on the corner of Stockton and Geary Sts, off Union Square in downtown San Francisco.

NBC reported it happened at 4.08pm on Monday (Tuesday 12.10pm NZT) when Bill Tims, 60, and Natalie Tims, 53, were hit by a Harley Davidson ridden by a 32-year-old man.

Bill Tims reportedly suffered severe head trauma and did not recover, and his wife was reported to have severe injuries. Later reports said she was in a stable condition.

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The couple were understood to have four adult children and although discussions were yet to take place with the family, including Natalie Tims in hospital, it was likely a full Fire Service funeral would be held for the 43-year veteran of volunteer firefighting in Hawke's Bay.

Bill Tims, who was also a long-time employee of the Bank of New Zealand in Hastings, was awarded the Fire Service Gold Star in 2001 for 25 years' service, and despite standing down from 20 years at the helm of the brigade two years ago, continued as a senior station officer.

Shocked and emotional Fire Service Hawke's Bay area assistant commander Nigel Hall yesterday said Bill Tims had stood down when he knew the brigade had the skills for a new leadership.

"The brigade's in good health because of his leadership," said Hall who, less than 24 hours before the tragedy, had had a message from Bill Tims in the United States.

"He emailed me on Monday morning and wished me a nice holiday.

"This was quite a shock, a shock to us all. It makes us realise just how fragile life is," he said.

"Bill will always be remembered for his humour, and his commitment to the Fire Service and his employer in the bank," said Hall, who has been the volunteers' manager for six years. "Bill was such a nice guy."

Members of the Haumoana brigade gathered at the station on Tuesday night to support each other and "remember Bill in the traditional way".

"They will always remember him for the good things. They will be working closely with Natalie and the family, but there will be a Fire Service funeral," Hall said, conjecturing it could "take a while", as Natalie Tims expected to be at least "10 days to two weeks" in hospital.

The New Zealand Consulate General in Los Angeles and the Honorary Consul in San Francisco were helping the family, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade reported.

Police were reported to be investigating whether the motorcyclist in the tragedy had run a red light, but did not believe the rider was under the influence.