Young freedom campers visiting Gisborne from Germany fear they could have been killed after someone deliberately cut the brake lines on their three vans.
The potentially lethal attack happened at Makorori, just north of Gisborne yesterday afternoon.
This morning they expressed dismay, disbelief and anger that someone could have killed them.
Stephan Krogman, 19, said they had been at the beach for about an hour and a half and decided to go to the laundromat.
"When I went to drive off, my foot on the brake pedal went straight to the floor."
He immediately pulled on the handbrake to stop the van.
"We had a look underneath and saw the cut in the brake line, but thought at first it might have been some sort of mechanical issue."
The group stayed at the beach overnight.
But this morning they found brake fluid on the ground under the other two vans and found cuts on those brake lines as well.
"This is a really bad thing for someone to have done," Krogman said.
"For someone to do this for no reason. . . we cannot explain it or understand it.
"They could have killed us.
"It is really crazy and we are angry about it."
The vehicles were a Toyota Hilux, a Nissan Lago people-mover and a Toyota van.
David Piontkowski, 20, said they were mystified about it.
"Some people who don't know us want to hurt us this bad. Why?
"Everyone has been so friendly to us since we have been in New Zealand. There is no reason we can think of for this to happen."
Birte Grutzmacher, 19, said they felt scared.
"We have had no trouble with anyone.
"We do not know why anyone would want to do this."
Detective Sergeant Kevin Ford said the lines were cut some time between 3pm and 4pm yesterday, and police want to hear from anyone who was in the car park at the bottom of Makorori Hill, or who was driving by and saw anything suspicious.
The vehicles were in the carpark at the southern end of Makorori Beach by the popular surf spot.
"Fortunately the driver of one of the three vehicles went to drive off and immediately noticed he had no brakes.
"He was able to stop his vehicle, had a look underneath and found his brake lines cut.
"This was obviously a very dangerous thing to do," Ford said.
Ford believed a "disaffected" person took exception to the presence of freedom campers.
"He or she would have had to climb under the three vehicles to cut the brake lines.
"Whoever has done this needs their head read because the potential for harm to people in those vehicles and other road users was very high," he said.
"This is absolutely blockhead behaviour and we want to catch up with whoever did it."
One of the couples targeted has insurance and steps were taken this morning to get a mechanic on-site to make repairs.
The other travellers only had third-party insurance.
Mike Virtue from Star Service Centre, who responded to the AA callout, said he would also look after repairs to the other two vehicles.
Ford said police hoped that someone parked in that area, or driving by on the coast highway, might have seen that happening or something suspicious.
"We want to hear from them."
- Gisborne Herald