Tragedy on Brookby Road
10 June 2003
by Staff Reporters

A popular Marlborough volunteer fireman died this morning when he was hit by a car while clearing branches on Brookby Rd.


Robert James Watson, 35, was killed when he was struck by a car shortly before 7am today while clearing the debris from the rural roadside where he lived.

Mr Watson, known as "Wattie", was the deputy chief fire officer of the Renwick Volunteer Fire Brigade.

He worked for Marlborough aviation company Safe Air as an engineer and played for the Renwick Rugby Club.

Senior Constable Russell Smith of Blenheim police said the accident was still being investigated, but it was believed a southbound Toyota car struck Mr Watson and then collided with his Ford utility, which was parked on the roadside.

Mr Watson died at the scene.

The Toyota driver was taken to Wairau Hospital by ambulance to be checked for injuries. He did not appear to be seriously injured, Mr Smith said.

Police, ambulance and firefighters - including Mr Watson's Renwick colleagues - attended the accident and Brookby Rd was closed to traffic.

Serious crash investigators were due at the scene this morning.

Renwick Volunteer Fire Brigade chief fire officer Dave McFarlane said Mr Watson's fellow volunteers were devastated and stunned by his death.

"We deal with death and destruction every day but it's never one of your own," Mr McFarlane said.

Mr Watson had been with the Renwick brigade for about five years, having moved from the Blenheim brigade where he served for about 12 years.

Mr McFarlane described his deputy as "an all round bloody good guy".

"He didn't have a bad bone in his body.

"Nothing was ever too much trouble, he was always trying to help people."

Former Renwick brigade chief officer Allan Newman said Mr Watson was highly regarded by the whole community.

Mr Watson's death is a huge blow to the Renwick Rugby Club which he served so well as a front row prop and administrator for many years.

"Wattie", as everyone knew him, was a very popular man in Marlborough rugby circles.

He began this season playing as well as ever but missed the last few matches because of a hamstring injury.

Even while injured he still turned up, running out water bottles during games, and on Saturday watched what turned out to be his last club game while working with the Renwick Fire Brigade.

He didn't play for the Marlborough senior representative A team but did represent West Coast against Marlborough in a Seddon Shield tournament in the 1990s.

Marlborough Rugby Union chief executive Mike Bishop said he was stunned by Mr Watson's death.

He said Marlborough's rugby team, the Red Devils, would wear black armbands tomorrow and observe a minute's silence as a mark of respect before the game started against Canterbury Country at Lansdowne Park.

Andy Rowe, a spokesman from Safe Air where Mr Watson worked in a propeller shop as an engineer for more than 10 years, said Mr Watson was tremendously well liked.

Acting police area controller, senior sergeant Steve May said there would be a full site examination.

"It appears a tree branch had fallen and the victim was clearing it from the road," he said.

He said the crash was a tragedy for Marlborough, and especially for Mr Watson's family. "This is another tragedy which will have an impact on the community," Mr May said.

Blenheim police wanted to hear from any motorists who were travelling on Brookby Rd this morning and saw Mr Watson removing branches from the roadside.

Dave Goulter, who owns a property opposite the crash site, said today the first thing he knew of the crash was when he heard sirens.

Mr Goulter rushed to the scene and helped emergency services block off the road.