The widow of the paralympian and Christchurch city councillor killed in an accident yesterday has spoken of her grief as tributes flowed for a man many believed to be "bullet-proof".
Graham Condon, 58, was on a training ride on his specially modified, three-wheeled hand-cycle when he was struck by two cars on a semi-rural Christchurch road about 10.20am.
Police are investigating the speed of the cars involved in the crash, on Lower Styx Rd - one was believed to have been driven by a 15-year-old girl who had four passengers in the car.
A world record-breaking sportsman, dedicated family man and straight-shooting local politician who loved a good joke - Condon died later in hospital from multiple head and chest injuries.
His wife Kathy yesterday told the Herald on Sunday her husband died doing what he adored.
"He was such a loving, popular guy with a loving family," said Mrs Condon, who often accompanied her husband on training rides. "He died on a beautiful Saturday morning, doing what he loved, getting out on his bike. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
She said the couple's two children, Craig, 35 and Andrea, 30, were on their way home to Christchurch, from Israel and Auckland.
The accident happened in the semi-rural area of Brooklands, part of Condon's "patch" as a Christchurch city councillor.
Detective Sergeant Dorothy McPhail of Papanui said a car had failed to negotiate a corner, crossed the centre line, and collided with a car travelling in the opposite direction. Condon was trapped between the car and another vehicle travelling behind him.
McPhail confirmed there were five people in one of the cars. The driver and a passenger had been taken to hospital. She said the other passengers were not injured, though both vehicles were extensively damaged.
Yesterday, Condon's council colleagues and the sporting community were attempting to come to terms with the loss of a man they all said loved sport and hated sympathy.
The only person to represent New Zealand in six consecutive Paralympics, Condon had won 36 international medals and held seven world, Olympic and Commonwealth records. He was standing for a fifth term as a city councillor.
Christchurch mayor Garry Moore said Condon's passion was keeping people healthy and encouraging them to be active.
"That was Graham's big thing. He made a huge contribution to our city and will be hugely missed."
A coup was Condon's leadership in the $25 million redevelopment of Queen Elizabeth II Park, a major swimming, sporting and leisure centre, during the 1990s. "He just glowed with the news that almost a million people now visit the complex every year."
Despite being a paraplegic, Condon never asked for a sympathy vote, Moore said. "He expected you to treat him as an ordinary person, to give him a hard time just as you would anyone else".
Fellow councillor and mate Norm Withers spoke yesterday of a "truly determined" man who was dedicated to everything he took on.
"What you saw was what you got. He didn't beat around the bush.
"I'm walking around like a zombie right now - I can't come to terms with it at the moment. He's given so much to the community and to sport - everything about him is just total commitment - and then he gets taken in a freak accident."
Phil Humphreys, president of ParaFed Canterbury, a sporting body of which Condon was a longstanding board member, said he always thought his mate seemed bullet-proof. "He was a great guy and a great leader."
Jon Van den Heuvel, who lives near the scene of the accident said it was an area where the speed limit changed from 50 to 80, but "nobody takes notice of the speed limit anyway".
Another nearby resident, Elly Whitteman, said she often saw Condon training in the area.
Usually his wife followed on her bike, she said, but she was not there yesterday.
"He was a lovely man," she said. "He broke down outside our house a couple of months ago, and my husband helped him. Two days later, he came back with a bottle of wine."