The Queenstowner who admitted causing Kiwi rally car legend Possum Bourne’s death says marriage helped get his life back on track.
Local locksmith Mike Barltrop – 10 years to the day after colliding with Bourne during a hillclimb race practice run – says he hit the bottle for about two years: “I actually got pretty heavily into drinking for a few years afterwards – and lost a few friends over that which is regrettable.
“But once I met my wife, everything changed and I got back to normal life. I got married eight years ago, that sort of gave it a bit of fresh air.”
Barltrop, shifting soon to Christchurch with wife Raewyn and their six-year-old, says he’s well and truly moved on.
But for media calling him up and pointing it out, he says he hadn’t realised the accident happened 10 years ago today.
Otherwise, Barltrop says the only time he’s thought about the 2003 Cardrona Valley calamity is when driving past the Snow Farm access road that the accident occurred on.
Barltrop says he’s glad a statue erected in tribute to Bourne – who died of head injuries 12 days after the collision – no longer overlooks the accident scene.
“No one ever really got to see it up on the hill,” Barltrop says.
The statue was recently re-unveiled in Bourne’s home town of Pukekohe, near Auckland.
After denying a dangerous driving charge, Barltrop pleaded guilty in 2004 to a lesser charge of aggravated careless use of a vehicle causing Bourne’s death.
At the time, Barltrop’s lawyer Pip Hall told the Invercargill District Court his client accepted he was in the wrong and backed off earlier claims Bourne had sped down the hill.
This week Barltrop tells Mountain Scene: “I was always unsure at the start whether I was in the wrong and after hypnosis that cleared a lot of things up and I felt much more comfortable.”
Pleading guilty to a lesser charge also stemmed his financial losses: “After the legal bills got out of control, we just had to stop and take that route.”
Barltrop had to pay $10,000 in reparations, do 300 hours’ community service and was disqualified from driving for 18 months.
A lot of his community service was carried out round Kingston where he then lived, he recalls.
“I restored their old library, repainted all of it, did a whole lot of other work around the waterfront for the community association.”
The fatal accident happened just six weeks before he was due to marry his then-fiancee – the wedding was put off and the couple later split.
Barltrop also took about six months to get over a badly broken femur from the crash.
Before he got his work driver licence, he was thankful a local woman drove him around so he could keep his business going.
To date, Barltrop – a former junior national rally champion runner-up – hasn’t returned to rallying.
Instead he’s taken up fly fishing and done more jetboating.
Barltrop is taking over his family’s locksmith business in Christchurch.
“We’ve had a great time here, it’s 20 years next month, so I’ve pretty much done my local’s apprenticeship.”
However he remains grateful during the past 10 years for “amazing support from the Queenstown people – really, it was very good”.