When Norman Hanson (Jacob Tomuri) died last night after Tama Hudson (David Wikaira-Paul) drove a car into a power pole, it was the 14th death of Shortland Street's 13-year life.

In true Shorters style the writers made it a cliffhanger, setting it up to look as if Eti Kawaka (Isaac Bell) was the character set to go before Norman had an embolism and the doctors at Shortland St were unable to save him.

"Killing off a major character is not something we take lightly because you have to play out all the consequences, such as grieving friends and family," said Shortland Street publicist Rachel Lorimer.

But while Norman was gone, there was still plenty going on.

She said the car crash would provide lots of ongoing story lines as other characters dealt with the loss.

"There's survivor guilt for the others in the car, and it is quite unusual for the doctors and nurses to try to save someone they know and fail, so it plays out with that as well. Because some are young, there will be recurrences where they remember bits of the accident. It will change the characters and provide further storylines for some time to come."

Shortland Street has often used death to tackle issues - murders, cot death, builders' negligence and natural disasters, it has had them all.

Norman's death comes 11 years after the March 1994 deaths of nurse Steve Mills and TP, who had just married Sam Aleni.

The most recent was Dominic Thompson (Shane Cortese) who burned to death in November last year.

"But Dominic was obviously a villain. It's been a few years since we've had a much-loved character die."

Dominic's death came after he took two lives himself - he hit Geoff Greenlaw on the head and left him in the Dog's Day Inn freezer to die. When Avril Lucich tried to blackmail him over it, he drowned her in a bath tub.

Shortland Street's first big murder was in March 1996 when the psychotic Carla Crozier killed her husband, Bernie, by hitting him on the head with a heavy candlestick.

"She's still in a mental health unit somewhere."

In 1999 Oscar Henry was killed when Mackenzie Choat blew up a building.

Other deaths included Darryl Nielsen, who died when Kirsty pushed him off a houseboat in April 1995. The actor, Mark Ferguson, returned as Darryl's twin brother.

Anne died at a charity function when a building collapsed in January 2004, and before her there was Tiffany, who slipped off a building while talking a suicidal patient down. Tiffany was kept on life support until the birth of her baby to Johnny Marinovich.

Then came Carmen (Theresa Healey), who died on Christmas Day in 1995 just a few days after being hit on the head when a truck crashed into the clinic.

"Carmen was a very popular character and it spoiled Christmas dinners right across New Zealand. I don't think we ever did a tragedy on Christmas Day again."

Two babies have died - in February 1997, Rose, the baby of Ellen Crozier and David Kearney, died of cot death. Last year, Tama and Shannon's baby died from an unusual infection.

Tomuri was not in the country to witness his own death - he has been on holiday since filming his death and was overseas when it screened last night.

Lorimer said it was Tomuri's decision to leave Shortland Street, but she was certain he would continue in acting.

Killed off

Among others who met a violent end on Shortland St:

* Darryl (Mark Ferguson) pushed off a houseboat in April 1995.
* Carmen (Theresa Healey) died on Christmas Day in 1995 after a truck crashed into the clinic.
* Dominic (Shane Cortese) burned to death in November last year.
Jacob Tomuri (second from right) makes his last appearance.