A young man about to start his farming career in Wairarapa was among four people killed in car accidents in the lead-up to the long weekend.

Tyler Swinbank, 17, a student at the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre, near Masterton, died when the car in which he was a passenger swerved along a road near Featherston and into a power pole on Wednesday night or early Thursday.

Speed and alcohol had been linked to the cause of the crash, said Sergeant Chris Megaw, of Wairarapa's Police's traffic unit.

The centre says it does not permit alcohol on site and has curfews for on-campus students, but Mr Swinbank and the driver lived off-campus.


Since Wednesday, there have been four crash-related deaths in New Zealand and three were within 12 hours of each other, including Mr Swinbank's.

He and his friend, an 18-year-old who was driving, were about to graduate from Taratahi, said Natalie Bowie, the education relationships manager.

Mr Swinbank's sister, Iesha, posted on Facebook that he was "finally getting to do what you've always wanted to do, which is work, now you're gone! I love you bro forever and always."

He was working in dairy farming after studying at the Taratahi campus and was popular with other students, many of whom "liked" a tribute page set up for him on Facebook.

Almost 1000 people went to the page, with some writing heartfelt tributes.

Lee Blayney wrote:

"Brings a tear to my eyes when i look at the front page of the news and there you are Tyler Swinbank, its true. you have left this world ... i am still blown away.. ive known you since the age of three, leaves a empty feeling"

Sam Whitehead wrote:


"Still hasn't sunk in bro ... wish it didn't end like this, too young bro ."

Mikaela Louise Nicholas wrote:

"Rest in paradise bro :D we will miss you hardout man :D god took you way to early from us :( but now your with your dad so take care up there man xx arohanui Tyler."

The driver was flown to Wellington Hospital and was reported to be in a stable condition.

Beer bottles were found at the crash scene and the driver will be tested for drugs and alcohol.

The teens were not the first Taratahi students to be involved in an alcohol/speed-related car accident.

Last year, a 17-year-old Taratahi student, who was drink-driving, crashed on a rural Carterton road, injuring his two passengers.

His blood-alcohol result was almost double the adult limit.

In the same year, another car carrying students crashed into a ditch after the driver lost control.

In 2011, a young female student speeding in wet conditions had a head-on crash, injuring herself and her passenger.

Ms Bowie said Taratahi was a "dry campus" and had curfews in place for the 150 students who, unlike Mr Swinbank and his friend, lived on campus.

She said a range of speakers, including police, visited every year to talk to students about staying safe.

Mr Megaw said Taratahi students were a concentrated group of young people, who were already in a high-risk category for car crashes.

"Just because they are from Taratahi doesn't mean they are more likely to drink or speed."

He said much like towns which had problems with university students drinking, Taratahi was the "university" of Wairarapa.

Young people away from home might feel less restricted and take part in risky activities, just like students at a university, he said.

"They are away from home, in a hostel-type environment, at various stages of their life journey.

"They find themselves in a more free environment, [and] that will come to police attention."

He said police planned to put extra staff on the road to catch speedsters and drink-drivers during the long weekend.

During Queen's Birthday last year, there were four fatal crashes which resulted in seven deaths, and 17 crashes involving serious injuries. Another 59 crashes caused minor injuries.