A man missing after a fatal motorcycle crash south of Kaitaia on Sunday was found only after a sharp-eyed police officer spotted faint tyre tracks in pine needles beside the road.
The Mid North 54-year-old was riding with a friend on Sunday afternoon when his bike left Kaitaia-Awaroa Rd at a right-hand bend, then went down a bank and through a fence before coming to rest in trees about 6m below the road.
The accident occurred about 150m north of Dysart Rd on the south side of Herekino Gorge, Senior Constable Warren Bunn of the police Serious Crash Unit said.
The men had earlier stopped in Herekino and were continuing north towards Kaitaia.
The other rider stopped on the north side of the gorge to wait for his companion. When he didn't show up he backtracked and, after finding no sign of the missing rider, called emergency services.
Police, assisted by Herekino residents, carried out a thorough search.
The missing man was found deceased around 8.30pm. Neither the bike nor the rider could be seen from the road.
Volunteer firefighters from Ahipara and Kaitaia were called out to help recover the body from the bottom of a steep bank.
On the way to the crash scene, however, the Ahipara crew struck a cow just north of Herekino Gorge.
''The cow decided to step out in front of the fire truck,'' fire chief Dave Ross said.
Damage was not serious — a broken headlight and bumper — but with one of the lights not working the appliance had to return to the station in Ahipara.
The firefighters then returned with a stretcher in another vehicle.
The cow did not appear to be injured.
''It just walked off and sat in the grass,'' Ross said.
The farmer had been notified. The cow was still by the roadside on Monday morning.
Herekino residents gathered on Monday morning to bless the crash site, release any tapu and make it safe.
The rider's death was the second on Kaitaia-Awaroa Rd, in similar circumstances, so far this year.
On January 29 a police Search and Rescue team found a 64-year-old Far North woman whose car had crashed down a bank about 4km from Sunday's accident, on the other side of the gorge.
She too had been reported missing and was found only after an extensive search.
Bunn said Sunday's death was the third fatal motorbike accident in Northland in 10 days.
All three had involved older men driving big bikes typically around 1700-1800cc.
The 1730cc cruiser involved in Sunday's accident had been designed with long straight roads in mind, not Northland's unforgiving, twisting roads.
He urged anyone riding such a bike in Northland to take extra care.
Kaitaia-Awaroa Rd was closed for several hours between Herekino settlement and Roma Rd while police carried out an investigation.
Northland's road toll for 2021 so far now stands at 10. The other fatal bike crashes this month occurred at Te Kao on April 4 and Tutukaka on April 1.