By Darrel Mager

Derek McKendry, a television cameraman who had dodged bullets and bombs in some of the world's worst hotspots, died of an apparent heart attack yesterday while waiting for a press conference to start.

The 58-year-old TVNZ cameraman, the longtime partner of 60 Minutes reporter Janet McIntyre, collapsed about 2 pm while covering a Pharmac press conference at the Centra Hotel in Auckland.

Dr Peter Moodie, medical director of Pharmac, the Government's drug-buying agency, performed CPR until ambulance officers arrived, but Mr McKendry died at the scene.

"Derek was actually a bit of a legend among television cameramen," said TVNZ spokesman Liam Jeory late last night. "He had one of the finest resumes and portfolios of experience in the industry and everyone here's quite shocked."

Mr McKendry started his career with TV1, joined the ABC in Australia and then spent eight years covering the Vietnam War.

In 1979 he was nearly killed in Zambia after being arrested and accused of being a spy. An Australian reporter with him was shot in the head and seriously wounded while being held in a police car. They were released four days later after an appeal by then-Prime Minister Robert Muldoon.

Mr McKendry returned home more than 10 years ago for "time out," then joined TV3 as the station's first chief cameraman. He had been with TVNZ for the past five years.