The organiser of a Napier charity boxing match and a second-generation Hastings farmer were both killed in a car accident yesterday, leaving the local community reeling.

Battle For Life promoter and trainer Patrick Tama O'Brien, from Flaxmere, and retired farmer Tony Anderson, from Napier, were killed in a two-car crash on Hawkes Bay Expressway yesterday afternoon.

O'Brien, a former Hawke's Bay basketballer was a big part of the community and the driving force behind the charity event Battle For Life, which has been cancelled in light of his passing.

Tonight was to be the 10th anniversary and was a fundraiser for suicide awareness after a former participant Chy Cassidy became a victim of suicide earlier this year.

Advertisement
O'Brien and another person died in a two-car crash on the Hawke's Bay Expressway yesterday. Photo / Warren Buckland
O'Brien and another person died in a two-car crash on the Hawke's Bay Expressway yesterday. Photo / Warren Buckland

Tributes have been pouring into his Facebook page describing him as a loving husband and father to his two sons, who is widely regarded in the community as being a selfless and caring "life changer".

Read more
Patrick O'Brien a Flaxmere hero
Boxing: Fighting for suicide prevention
Fatal crash: 'My heart went out to the family'

He was one of two people who lost their lives in the accident.

A resident who heard the fatal collision says she was hanging her clothes out at 1.30pm on Friday when she heard a "heavy bang" from State Highway 2 and then a woman's cry.

"She cried out like when you have lost someone important and you are hurt," she said.

"I felt shocked."

The "heavy bang" was what police later confirmed was a double fatal crash on the expressway between the Kennedy Rd on-ramp and intersection with Taradale Rd.

"It was very hard to hear the distress, my heart went out to the woman and her family," she told Hawke's Bay Today.

Advertisement

Police said they arrived at the scene of the crash at 1.35pm.

Ambulance and fire and emergency staff assisted police, with one ambulance and two rapid response vehicles at the scene.

Victim Support staff were also at the scene.

The road remained closed while the Serious Crash Unit examined the scene. Diversions were in place.

Traffic down Kennedy Rd on Friday afternoon was backed up for several hundred metres, with traffic also heavy in other areas near the diversion.

At 5.45pm police confirmed that the road was cleared and the road was fully open.

Police (bottom right) block off the expressway after the crash. Photo / MetService Traffic Cam
Police (bottom right) block off the expressway after the crash. Photo / MetService Traffic Cam

O'Brien was interviewed just yesterday ahead of the Battle for Life event, talking about how it would feature a women's kickboxing event for the first time in its history.

Jahna Watson, a Muay Thai Boxer who has represented NZ, was a workmate of Cassidy which prompted her to take part in the event.

The event's Givealittle page said it was an "action packed evening of boxing, music, culture and entertainment".

The event was alcohol and smokefree and known for its positive impact on the community.

O'Brien also ran The Lab, the oldest operating gym facility in Hawke's Bay.

He also worked extensively alongside disadvantaged youth, individuals and families, giving them a sense of value and importance.

O'Brien (right) trains Regan Kalmancsi for the feature bout at Battle for Life charity boxing event in Napier. Photo / Supplied
O'Brien (right) trains Regan Kalmancsi for the feature bout at Battle for Life charity boxing event in Napier. Photo / Supplied

Last year, he was featured in the annual 2018 Heroes Calendar which celebrated people for their contribution to the suburb of Flaxmere.

The initiative was launched by the U-Turn Trust in 2010 by Hastings District Councillor Henare O'Keefe as a way to counteract the negative publicity towards the suburb.

O'Brien was reluctant to accept the recognition, having been asked a few times, but was eventually convinced.

O'Keefe had known O'Brien for more than a decade and said O'Brien and his wife Theresa's gym was about improving lives holistically.

"It wasn't a nine to five thing for them; when there was an opportunity to do good, they were there," O'Keefe said. "They were true servants of the people, who literally served people's needs, dreams and aspirations."

As the chairman of Te Aranga marae, O'Keefe is involved in the preparations for the tangi which will begin tomorrow morning.

"We'll get things ready here and then we'll be able to talk and cry together and laugh together and share stories of Patrick."

Large numbers of visitors are expected to come from the community, around the country and even from overseas.

"No matter where you have this funeral, it's not going to be big enough. They will just pour into the marae," O'Keefe said.

The Battle For Life event was likely to continue in the future, despite being cancelled today.

"Patrick wouldn't want anything less. If we truly want to honour his family and memory, keep that going."

O'Keefe said he was keeping the other casualty of the two-car accident in his prayers.

"I know Theresa's love and prayers would go out to that family. I don't want that to get lost among the tributes to Patrick, we've got to acknowledge them as well. They will be going through the same thing, so all our love and prayers to them."

Stuff reports that 75-year-old, Tony Anderson, who was also killed in the crash, ran Ben Lomond Station, south of Hastings, before retiring to Napier in 2012.

His son Hamish described him as a happy person and a great father.

"It was just two days ago he was out helping me dock and draft lambs," Hamish said.

"This has come as a real shock. It's hard getting your head round it. He'll be greatly missed."