A man killed in a stag attack yesterday was a respected Southland firefighter whose colleagues were called to the tragedy.
Senior firefighter Ben McLean died after the animal attacked in the small community of Makarewa, just north of Invercargill, last night.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand area manager Julian Tohiariki said McLean was at a fire the night before his death.
"Ben played an active role within the brigade over his career. This was evident right up to the night before this tragic accident, where he was the pump operator/driver of the first arriving appliance at a significant structure fire in Invercargill."
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Tohiariki said McLean was passionate about his farm in Makarewa.
"He had a number of different animals and always spoke with passion and affection about them and the lifestyle he had there."
McLean's death was a deeply sad time for the Southland team and across the country, Tohiariki said.
"Ben was a well-regarded and experienced senior firefighter within the Invercargill Fire Brigade for more than 43 years.
"This is a time for reflection for our local crews and over the coming days we will look to remember and mourn our mate."
He said Fenz would provide support to upset colleagues and McLean's family.
"We also ask you, please respect our people's privacy at this time, while they mourn the passing of their mate and colleague."
McLean's loss was also marked by the New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union national secretary Wattie Watson today.
"It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the tragic death of respected Invercargill senior firefighter Ben McLean," Watson said in a statement online to union members.
She said McLean was attacked by a deer on his property.
Emergency services - including police and Fire and Emergency NZ staff - were called to the scene, on Flora Rd, just after 6pm.
"The Invercargill career crews attended the fatal incident of their colleague," Watson said.
McLean first joined the Tapanui Volunteer Brigade before becoming a professional career firefighter, dedicating more than four decades to serving and protecting the community, Watson said.
"He was highly respected by his crews and colleagues and will be remembered as a true character of the Invercargill brigade.
"His crew, colleagues and many others will be remembering him at this time retelling stories and reliving memories."
McLean was a long-standing union member.
"We extend our sympathies to his family, friends and colleagues and offer any support needed. We hope treasured memories give you some comfort at this time."
Family members posted tributes online describing McLean as caring and much-loved.
"Never ever thought this would happen to him," one wrote.
"Such an amazing person - caring and loving. May his soul rest in peace."
Others have described the shock of finding out that their loved one was the man involved in the freak accident.
"Very, very sad to hear this," one relative wrote on Facebook.
"Big shock to our family. Rest in peace uncle. See you soon."
The circumstances of the incident are not yet fully known. The stag was put down.
Police said this morning that the circumstances of the man's death will be investigated on behalf of the Coroner's Office.
A spokeswoman confirmed that police staff were no longer at the scene today.
Additional reporting Vaimoana Tapaleao.