Tributes are flowing around the world for New Zealand mountain biker Kelly McGarry, who died after collapsing while riding on the high slopes above Queenstown yesterday afternoon.
The 33-year-old, one of New Zealand's best slopestyle mountain bikers and track builders, was riding with two German companions filming video for his sponsor YT Industries when he collapsed from his bike on the Fernhill Loop riding track.
The Herald understands he suffered a heart attack and died instantly after falling on a section called Salmon Run.
Senior Sergeant Paula Enoka, of Queenstown police, said the pair performed CPR on McGarry after he came off his bike, but he was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics about 4.20pm.
The unexplained death has been referred to the coroner, and police would take statements from his riding companions and partner today.
"We're still investigating what his movements were over the weekend," Sen Sgt Enoka said.
Two St John paramedics were flown to the scene after McGarry's companions called another biking companion, who in turn alerted emergency services.
McGarry was the only New Zealander ranked in the world's top 20 for slopestyle and as co-owner of Elevate Course Building built the slopestyle course for the Crankworx World Tour event at Skyline Rotorua Gravity Park next month.
His next event was going to be the FarmJam in Southland.
Originally from Nelson, he was part of the Queenstown bike community and known throughout the world for his enthusiastic friendly personality.
His bike sponsor YT posted a statement on their website saying the company was deeply saddened and shocked by the death of "a truly unique character".
"We were informed about his death in the morning and are petrified, shocked and heartbroken about losing one of our family members. Kelly was a warm-hearted, friendly and relaxed guy. He stood for the true essence of mountain biking through every aspect of his life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, girlfriend and his friends. The mountain bike world lost an exceptional character," the statement read.
Fans and bike magazines were in mourning for the rider, with many highlighting his sunny, outgoing personality.
Bikemag.com described it as "terrible news out of New Zealand".
"Fans and friends remembered Kelly for his genuine and easy-going demeanour and his trademark smile that could light up any room," it wrote.
Pinbike.com described "McGazza" as "the big friendly giant of freeride for the past decade".
"Kelly was a fan favourite for his massive backflips but it was his personality which endeared him to all who knew him. He was they type of man who befriended everyone he met. He was the ultimate ambassador for New Zealand and mountain biking in general."
Those behind Crankworx Rotorua have been left in shock following the death of one of their own.
Event director Tak Mutu said the Crankwox whanau was deeply shocked and sadden by McGarry's death yesterday.
He described McGarry as "the big man, with the big heart and the big smile".
"Our thoughts and deepest condolences go out to his girlfriend, Samantha, his family, business partner Tom Hey and all of his friends here and around the world."
Mr Mutu said McGarry was a pioneer slopestyle rider and a Crankworx legend, known as much for his big heart and ever-present smile as his epic air.
"The festival will not be the same without the sight of golden locks flowing from a lid mid-flip or his goofy grin at the finish line."
"A staple in the gravity scene, 33-year-old 'McGazza' wasn't just a member of our Crankworx build or ambassador team, he was a part of the whanau. He really was the nice guy of mountain biking, always stopping to chat and high-five the kids, hang out with everyone and be cheeky with his big cheesy grin."
Mr Mutu said his skills weren't just on the track and as a carpenter the course he built with his friend and Elevate business partner, Tom Hey, for the Crankworx Rotorua Slopestyle was one of the best.
"He learnt a lot about slopestyle courses, having travelled the world competing for a decade, and knew what riders liked. It's hard to believe the charismatic, affable McGazza is no longer with us."
"His contribution to the sport and festival will not be forgotten, and his positive energy will be woefully missed."
Sites were inundated with hundreds of reader comments from al lover the globe.
"The world is a much darker place today. Thanks for all the amazing memories you gave to the world of mountain biking. From one 6ft 6 giant to another. We'll miss you." (Norway)
"Such a massive loss for mountain biking, was absolutely blown away when I found out, ride in peace Kelly." (Canada)
"I have been working as a volunteer at Crankworx Rotorua last year and I had the chance to meet Kelly McGarry...He was such a friendly, positive guy and I had so much respect for him! He even came to the volunteers dinner just to say thank you." (Germany)
"(he was) always laughing on interviews, always with a good mood, having fun every time the camera was on him or someone was interviewing him." (Brazil)
"Kelly was an inspiration to many, and was viewed as a mentor and role model to many up-and-coming riders. His spirit of domination and ever-cheerful attitude won the hearts of everyone he met." (USA)
"Ride in peace Kelly, I never had an opportunity to meet you but you were a great rider. You inspired me to all what I've done last years and ill keep my work for you." (Portugal)
"RIP Buddy - You were such a great ambassador for your sport." (Denmark)
"Ride in peace" (Estonia)
- With Otago Daily Times