Tristan Melzner and Lucas Leschok were two young men excited to see the other side of the world.

The German friends had recently been in Australia; travelling around the country, taking seasonal jobs picking cherries and making friends at a backpackers in the middle of nowhere.

They had been in New Zealand for about two weeks, their friends say, when tragedy struck and brought their adventure to a sudden end.

Melzner and Leschok, in their early 20s, died when their rental car collided with a bus carrying more than a dozen tourists near Te Anau last Tuesday.

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Minutes later, the vehicle burst into flames. Those first at the scene tried bravely to get to at least one of the young men who is thought to have survived the impact of the crash, but were beaten back by flames.

The crash happened on a bend on Milford Rd shortly before 3pm.

Melzner and Leschok died when their rental car collided with a bus carrying more than a dozen tourists near Te Anau last Tuesday. Photo / Supplied
Melzner and Leschok died when their rental car collided with a bus carrying more than a dozen tourists near Te Anau last Tuesday. Photo / Supplied

Those close to the pair have paid tribute to two polite young men who had a spirit of adventure.

Paula and Trevor Tobias came to know the two friends well during their stay at their Hillston Backpackers, in New South Wales late last year.

Tristan and Lucas, also known as Luca, had arrived on their doorstep in early November ready for the cherry-picking season, which was late last year because of heavy floods.

"They were really nice young kids. They were here to do their second-year visa to do some work to stay in the country a bit longer.

"Tristan, who was the baby-faced one, was really a nice, clean, fresh young fellow. They were almost naive in a way.

"Luca seemed a little bit older. They were nice and polite."

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Minutes after the crash, the vehicle burst into flames. Photo / Supplied
Minutes after the crash, the vehicle burst into flames. Photo / Supplied

The boys had arrived with two young German female backpackers who also worked on the farm for some time.

During their time at Hillston, Tristan received sad news from home - a young family friend also travelling overseas had drowned.

"I did say to him [Tristan] quite pointedly: 'You don't know when's your last day. So you've got to get out there and live your life, kids','' Paula Tobias said.

"'But you've gotta make sure you keep in contact with your mum and let her know [you're] okay'."

Shortly before Christmas, the two friends decided to leave Hillston to continue their travels around Australia before planning to head to New Zealand for a holiday, having saved enough money from their cherry-picking jobs.

"I was under the impression that they were going to do their work in Australia and earn some money because they wanted to travel to New Zealand and do the holiday.

"I don't think that they were planning on working, but you never know. The skills that they'd learned in Australia and the fact that they could get work in New Zealand.

"They loved Australia and were looking forward to their time in New Zealand because they'd heard so many things about it.

"It was just the spirit of adventure - they were brave enough. A lot of kids don't even get off the couch these days.

''They were travelling on the other side of the world where there are strange animals and we drive on the wrong side of the road and strange languages."

As their "Aussie mum',' Tobias said she imposed somewhat strict rules at Hillston for all the young people who frequently stayed with them.

If the dishes weren't done, the Wi-Fi was turned off, she laughed.

She said the boys, like many other young people in Australia for the first time, loved the culture of the place and how things were done.

One of the last memories she has of Tristan and Lucas is of them standing in the kitchen preparing a meal.

"I can visualise them now. They would cook and make their meals together and they were teaching each other little things."

Their last Christmas was spent laughing and enjoying good times with dozens of other young international backpackers who, like them, were keen on adventure and fun while seeing the world.

Those same young people were now in shock and supporting each other after the loss of the friends.

If she could pass on a message to the boys' parents, Tobias said: "Our hearts and our thoughts and prayers go to the families in Germany.

"Just know that while they were here, they made a lot of friends and they were really nice kids.

"They were some kids to be proud of."