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Victim of tornado almost got away

Friday 07 Dec 2012 6:02p.m.

Victim of tornado almost got away

The names of the three men who died during yesterday’s tornado at a building site in Hobsonville have now been released.

They were working with dozens of others on the site of a new school in Hobsonville and Prime Minister John Key has revealed that one of them nearly survived, but ran back into the line of fire.

Mr Key visited his constituency today to see for himself the place where three men were killed.

“It's ferocious, it was instantaneous and tragic for those men who were in the truck or cowering around the truck for protection. The slab has come down and claimed their lives.”

The three men have been named as 22-year-old Brendon Johnson, 42-year-old Tom Stowers and 60-year-old Keith Langford.

As a crane prised the concrete block off the cab of the truck it was apparent there could be no survivors.

And yet one of them had nearly escaped.

It's believed he was clear of the wall, but as the wind hurled debris around, he ran back towards it looking for shelter next to the truck.

“Essentially no-one saw it coming,” Mr Key says. “Down the road at Whenuapai Airfield [the wind] moved a Hercules plane sideways. That's 100,000 lb of aircraft.”

That is equivalent to the weight of 10 elephants.

Key says the death toll could have been higher.

Now officials are inspecting the concrete slabs that crushed the construction workers. More than 200 people were working on two sites when the tornado hit. Seven people needed hospital treatment with four kept in overnight with injuries including broken bones.

The site remains cordoned off while the area is investigated.

“That's probably not going to be released for some time,” Waitemata District Commander Superintendant Bill Searle says. “There's further investigations that we need to take at that location before it can be released.”

Hawkins Construction is setting up a fund for donations to the families of the dead men.

 

 

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