ROTORUA'S mountain biking community has been left reeling following the death of one of the "Crankworx whanau" - track builder, competitor and all round nice guy Kelly McGarry.
McGarry, one of New Zealand's best slopestyle mountain bikers and track builders, was riding with two German companions filming video for a sponsor when he collapsed from his bike on the slopes above Queenstown on Monday afternoon.
The Herald understands he suffered a heart attack and died instantly. His death has been referred to the coroner.
The 33-year-old was well known in Rotorua for the huge role he played with Crankworx.
McGarry was due back in Rotorua in a few weeks to work on rebuilding the tracks before the international mountain bike event, which starts at Skyline Rotorua on March 9. He was also expected to compete, as he did last year.
Crankworx Rotorua event director Tak Mutu said those involved with the event were in shock after hearing the news.
There was no doubt the upcoming Crankworx would honour McGarry in some way, he said.
"How exactly we don't know yet."
Mr Mutu said as well as being a superstar of the sport, McGarry was an amazing ambassador for the sport on a global scale.
"He always gave his time, was always there to high five the kids and to stop and chat and engage with them."
He said children always thought "he was amazing".
Mr Mutu recalled how McGarry posted a present to a young fan he met at Crankworx Rotorua last year.
"That's the sort of person he was, super generous and always super nice."
Mr Mutu said at events such as Crankworx McGarry could have easily sat back and said he was a superstar, but instead he was "in there amongst everyone, riding with them, hanging out with them".
"McGazza wasn't just a member of our Crankworx build or ambassador team, he was a part of the whanau. He really was the nice guy of mountain biking, always stopping to chat and high-five the kids, hang out with everyone and be cheeky with his big cheesy grin."
Tributes had been flowing in from around the world since the news broke, Mr Mutu said.
"It's knocked us back emotionally, operationally the show will go on."
He described McGarry as "the big man, with the big heart and the big smile".
"Our thoughts and deepest condolences go out to his girlfriend, Samantha, his family, business partner Tom Hey and all of his friends here and around the world."
Mr Mutu said McGarry was a pioneer slopestyle rider and a Crankworx legend, known as much for his big heart and ever-present smile as his epic air. "The festival will not be the same without the sight of his golden locks flowing from a lid mid-flip or his goofy grin at the finish line."
Mr Mutu said his skills weren't just on the track and as a carpenter the course McGarry built with his friend and Elevate business partner, Tom Hey, for the Crankworx Rotorua Slopestyle was one of the best.
Rotorua track builder Adam King from Empire of Dirt, who worked with McGarry, described him as an "all time good guy" who made time for anyone.
"He was just super genuine, super nice."
Mr King said he was "absolutely gutted" when he heard the news.
"I'm still broken. I've spoken to people from all around the world, everyone is just shattered."
Olympic BMX star Sarah Walker met him once, to film a segment called "five adventures in one day" for a sponsor.
The Kawerau rider said it was an unforgettable experience, due to the power and warmth of McGarry's personality.
"To leave such an impression from one day speaks volumes."
-Additional reporting NZME.