Queenstowner safeguards tribute to dead man for 30 years

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A Queenstowner who safeguarded a tribute album to a dead man for decades has finally been able to gift it to his family.

Local Dorothea Ramsay never gave up hope that loved ones of Englishman Brian Street, killed in a plane smash in Queenstown in 1984, would one day come knocking.

That hope was rewarded this week when his sister Carol arrived.

Brian died 30 years ago when his homemade light aircraft crashed in Frankton immediately after taking off from Queenstown Airport for its first flight.

At the time, the 34-year-old builder was a boarder at Ramsay’s place on Hallenstein Street up Queenstown Hill – he’d been there for three years while he built his plane.

When he was killed, Ramsay saved photos, certificates, the order of service for his funeral and cards into an album.

Ramsay passed it on to a grateful Carol on Monday.

Carol, who upon arrival in Queenstown only knew that he’d lodged with someone called “Dorothea”, originally contacted the Queenstown police to see if they had any information.

Police contacted Mountain Scene for its archived coverage of the accident – and veteran journalist Frank Marvin deduced it was probably Ramsay and put Carol in touch with her.

Ramsay says: “I’ve kept hold of [the album] for 30 years, hoping to be able to give it to someone from his family in England.

“It was wonderful to be able to give it to his sister – I think she was astounded.

“Brian was a very cheerful man – he was well known around the town and the airport too, with lots of friends.”

Carol says she flew to New Zealand simply wanting to fill in blanks about her brother’s time in Queenstown far from home: “I just wanted to put the pieces together, maybe speak to someone who knew him.

“All I ever knew was he lodged with a lady called Dorothea,” she says.

“One day police came to our door at home and said there had been a tragic accident. All we had was a small obituary in the paper saying they’d been a memorial service and the date of his death.

“He came out to Australia and then over to NZ and settled here. He’d write to me and tell me how many air miles he needed for his licence. My mum had been out and had a holiday with him, and he’d flown her all over, but I had three young children and couldn’t afford it.”

Carol adds: “Brian would have built a lot of properties in Queenstown and he was also heavily involved with the church.”