A year from this weekend, Rhys Middleton was to be married to his long-time sweetheart, Laura Settle.

The couple, who worked together at Greer's Gastro Bar in Tauranga, had bought a house and were planning to start a family.

Two days ago, those dreams were shattered when 23-year-old Mr Middleton was catapulted from his motorcycle and died on the unyielding bitumen of State Highway 5, just north of Napier.

He collided with a car being driven in the same direction by a 27-year-old Chinese woman, who was in New Zealand on a working holiday. Police are still working to determine what went wrong.


Mr Middleton's brother, Ryan, was among a group of motorcyclists with him when the crash happened at 10am.

He tried to save his little brother, and that brought some comfort to the family, their father Mike Middleton told the New Zealand Herald this morning. "He did CPR ... he isn't trained, I don't think. It would be instinct."

Mike Middleton was also riding with the group, who were part of the Bay of Plenty Road Pirates SMC (Social Motorcycle Club) and returning to Tauranga from the Bay MC One Night Stand motorcycle event the day before. But he was further ahead and did not know what had happened until he stopped in Taupo.

He turned around and made the heartbreaking 125km return journey to the crash site, Mike Middleton said.

Police left his son at the scene until he arrived. "They left him there for me. I had a cry and could pick him up."

Police, fire service and St John Ambulance attended the serious crash. Photo / Duncan Brown
Police, fire service and St John Ambulance attended the serious crash. Photo / Duncan Brown

His son was someone who had big plans for his life, Mike Middleton said.

He was a manager at Greer's and had been with his partner, Laura, a chef at Greer's, for four years. They had just bought a house and were talking about starting a family.

"He was talking about it on Saturday night. He had a life planned."

Mike Middleton understood the driver of the car which struck his son had been trying to pull over to let him pass, but misjudged how much space she had. Her vehicle's front wheel collided with the front wheel of his son's motorcycle and he was catapulted on to the road, he said.

"I just wish people wouldn't pull over for us. Just stay on the road and we'll pass when we're ready ... I don't want to blame anyone for it, I'm not holding a grudge against them. They've made a mistake, but it's not going to bring my son back."

Senior Constable Cory Ubels, of the Hawke's Bay serious crash unit, said it would be "weeks" before the cause was known, but neither alcohol nor speed were thought to be a factor.

His son's funeral will take place this Saturday in Mt Maunganui or Tauranga, Mike Middleton said.

The send-off would include a tribute ride by Mr Middleton's many friends in the motorcycling fraternity. He was expecting a big turnout.

"My son, he always had a smile, he made friends easily. Everybody liked him. He was a great kid. He was a kid who was going places."