A forestry worker waiting for an early morning lift discovered the body of a man thought to have been run over while sleeping under a truck trailer near Whangarei.

The alarm was raised by 27-year-old Whetu Wihongi shortly after he arrived outside a visitor information centre about 5.40am yesterday.

Police believe the dead man, a 45-year-old local, had been asleep under the parked truck trailer in the carpark. The truck driver had hooked up to the trailer and driven off, unaware of the sleeping man.

Mr Wihongi said he crossed the road and spotted a truck driver wearing an orange high-visibility jacket, sitting in the cab of his unit with his back towards him.


"It looked liked the guy was filling out his log book or something. I couldn't see his face," said Mr Wihongi.

The truck and trailer unit had big bins on them, he said.

However, he was not sure what type of truck it was or the company it belonged to.

The driver left, making a left-hand turn out of the information carpark, heading north.

It was then Mr Wihongi spotted a dark form on the ground and went for a closer look.

"At first I thought it was a dog just sleeping on the ground. But then I saw it was a guy. He was making huffing, wheezing noises.

"I knew straight away I couldn't do much for him and rang 111 and asked for the ambulance," he said.

Fellow workmate Rob Tevita met up with Mr Wihongi outside the centre shortly after the grisly discovery.

Mr Tevita said the man was face down in a pool of blood, his clothes ripped.

"I was talking to him to see if there were any signs of life and trying to get a response but there was none. There wasn't much the ambo guys could do when they arrived," Mr Tevita said.

Police made an appeal for information about the truck trailer which had been parked overnight in the carpark at the centre, just south of the city.

Whangarei police Senior Constable Paul Nicholas said it appeared a man had fallen asleep beneath a trailer unit at the centre. It was thought the driver returned early yesterday and hooked up to the trailer and drove off, unaware of the person beneath.

Mr Nicholas said police wanted to speak to the driver or anyone who may know who the driver was, or information about drivers who parked at the centre regularly. The deceased had been identified but family members were still being advised before police released his name.

Yesterday's death brought Northland's road toll to five just ahead of a busy Easter weekend on the region's roads.