The Alaskan partner of 22-year-old Rutger Hale, who was killed by an unidentified object while driving between Wanaka and Lake Hawea last Thursday, is likely to return to the South with some of his ashes.
Danielle Oylear (26), who was a passenger in the Subaru car Mr Hale was driving when the object crashed through the windscreen, left yesterday for Mr Hale’s home town of Auckland, where a funeral service will be held.
Mr Hale’s great-uncle, Pete Phillips, of Makarora, told the Otago Daily Times yesterday Ms Oylear was ”adamant” she would return to the Lake Hawea area ”and have a service with some of his ashes down here”.
Mr Phillips said the couple arrived in the South only three weeks ago and were highly enthusiastic about their Hawea Flat dairy farming jobs and the prospect of settling in the area.
The couple visited Mr Phillips at his home last weekend.
”They were so excited. They couldn’t wait to get back to the farm for milking that afternoon; and they were picking their keys up for their new place in Hawea.
”We had a great meal by the fire and watched the All Blacks. All that good stuff.”
His great-nephew could not ”keep his nose out” of Mr Phillips’ tramping books, he said.
”He loved the mountains and the outdoors. He could go into those mountains for three weeks with some milk powder and some rice, a tent and a sleeping bag, and he could do it on his own.”
Mr Hale had built up a pile of topographical maps and was planning the couple’s next tramps and adventures.
Mr Phillips described Ms Oylear as ”an incredible tough woman” who might well complete the trips the couple had planned.
The couple first met two years ago when Ms Oylear was driving into the Dart Valley, near Glenorchy, to begin a tramping trip and Mr Hale was hitch-hiking with the same intention.
”They have been inseparable since that day,” he said.
They had just returned to New Zealand from Alaska and a 17,700km road trip across the United States.
”It was a very special story they had.
”She’s just absolutely devasted – not just the fact that she has lost him but in the way she lost him and she’s had to witness all of that, in the car.”
After Mr Hale was hit, Ms Oylear took the steering wheel and lifted Mr Hale’s foot off the accelerator pedal.
Mr Phillips, who drives a school bus along the same stretch of road where Mr Hale died, said he was confident police would find the object responsible for his great-nephew’s death.
”It’s just been devastating, massive, unbelievable, freaky; every word you can think of. It’s been all of those things and more.”
Ms Oylear was accompanied to Auckland yesterday by Mr Hale’s mother, Lisa Hale, and his sister, Raven Hale (20).
Ms Oylear’s mother was travelling from Alaska.
Mr Phillips said both Mr Hale’s parents were part Maori and he believed the funeral was likely to be held in Manukau.
Mr Hale’s body had undergone a postmortem in Dunedin and Mr Phillips said it was expected to be transported to Auckland yesterday. – Otago Daily Times