A Hawke's Bay builder who accidentally shot himself in the chest with a nail gun pulled out the nail himself and walked onto a rescue helicopter, but later died from his injuries.

Mr Barr 31, died early yesterday morning after a freak accident on a rural property in Waipukurau, when a nail gun fired while he was climbing down a ladder.

Although his wife Laura and he were living in Havelock North, Mr Barr was a "Waipuk boy", said Central Rugby and Sports Club premier manager Tony Lepelaars.

"He was at training just the other night saying it was his birthday and he was 31. We are all just devastated. It's a tragedy alright."


Mr Lepelaars said Mr Barr was well respected within the community of Waipukurau.

"His family have grown up here. Donna and Kelvin [parents] are very much Waipuk people and great supporters of the club as well."

A builder by trade, Mr Lepelaars said the manner of Mr Barr's death had rocked the small community.

"I've only heard what people have told me but it's from a really good source. He came down off a ladder, slipped and the nail gun hit him on the shoulder.

"He realised what he had done, walked outside and was sitting on a trailer and managed to pull the nail out."

Mr Lepelaars said Mr Barr was still in good spirits and even walked to the Lowe Corporation Helicopter which transported him to the hospital.

The club is due to play Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports at home tomorrow, but Mr Lepelaars was unsure whether the game would go ahead. "We all know what Robbie would want. He'd want us to go there and kick Pirate's arse. But mentally and physically I don't know whether we will be up for it."

Mr Barr played nearly 150 games for his club and also played for Hawke's Bay Maori.


Mr Lepelaars said his heart went out to his wife Laura and their baby Asha, who was born earlier this year.

"I really feel for Laura, they were only married last year, he was a great mate of my son Karl."

Hawke's Bay Today talked with Mr Barr's boss Marcus Schaw from Schaw Building Ltd, who said the staff and he were shocked when they were told the news.

"I've known him for years, I played rugby with him but he only started with us two weeks ago. He was as tough as buggery and very popular with his teammates and at work."

Mr Schaw choked up when he described how he felt about Mr Barr.

"We are pretty heartbroken and everyone is pretty cut up, it was just the three of us; Robbie and Jase. In that two weeks Jase and I never laughed so much. But we are trying to remember all the good things about him."

He said he didn't want to talk about the incident but described it as a "freak accident".

A family member, who didn't want to be named, told Hawke's Bay Today Mr Barr was loved by all the family and they were "overwhelmed with grief".

WorkSafe New Zealand senior communications adviser Julian Robins said an investigation was under way and an inspector was sent to the scene yesterday.

A spokesperson for Hawke's Bay District Health Board said the incident had been referred to the Coroner.