A hero pilot who left his family behind in New Zealand to fight bush fires in Australia was left to die on the road after being struck by a hit-and-run driver.
Helicopter pilot and water bomber Ian Pullen, 44, was struck by a car on Saturday morning in Glenridding, 200 kilometres north of Sydney.
Pullen - a father-of-three who was set to celebrate his 24th wedding anniversary on Monday - was crossing the road when he was hit at speed.
Police are now searching for the hit-and-run driver who failed to stop after the collision.
Pullen was in Australia to help with the rural fire efforts in the Hunter Region of New South Wales, 7 News reported.
His widow, Vicki Pullen, will now be organising the retrieval of her husband's body instead of celebrating their wedding anniversary.
"He was there to keep Singleton safe in case a bush fire broke out and just to save people's lives," she told 7 News.
Fighting back tears Vicki Pullen was understandably angry with the hit and run driver.
"He's a coward. Gutless," she said.
It's believed Pullen was struck down sometime between 4am and 5.30am on Saturday morning.
New South Wales police released a statement hoping for information that could help track down the driver.
They are also seeking information in relation to a silver hatchback which was seen to pull up alongside the man's body about 5.30am.
A female driver was seen to get out of the vehicle and check on the man before driving away again.
If you have any information that may help police with their investigation please contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.