Who was driving when Hemi died?
Two years have passed since hitch-hiker Hemi Rapaea was found dead in a crashed car on a Hawke’s Bay highway, but the driver who fled has never been found.
Rapaea, 62, had been hitchhiking north of Dannevirke when he was given a ride towards Hastings in a silver Ford Fairmont. At around 3.15am on March 10, 2016 the car veered off the road just north of Te Aute College on State Highway Two.
It crashed into bushes, flipped on its roof and then landed back on the road.
The driver fled the scene and could not be found by police.
Now police have made a renewed bid to find the driver, with the crash featuring on the Police Ten 7 TV programme on Thursday.
Sergeant Cory Ubels, officer in charge of the Serious Crash Unit in Hawke’s Bay, was hoping viewers will help with information identifying the driver.
Ubels said evidence suggested two vehicles were travelling in convoy.
‘‘This has been a long and complex investigation for which Mr Rapaea’s grieving wha¯nau need answers. I’m hoping that with the passage of time, people who have information about the crash and the driver’s identity, will be prompted to come forward and tell us what they know,’’ he said.
Rapaea was found dead in the front passenger seat.
A truck driver reported seeing a white Toyota stationwagon stop nearby after the crash before it drove off.
Following the crash police said the car had been sold recently and the registered owner was not a suspect.
Witnesses who arrived on the scene straight after the crash had come forward.
Initial investigations suggested the driver fell asleep, as no evasive action appeared to have been taken once the car left the road.
A death notice for Rapaea said he was a cherished father, son and loving partner.
‘‘Loved father of all his eight children. Adored Koro to all his 25 Mokos. Loving Brother and Uncle to all his Nieces and Nephews,’’ the notice said.
The fatal car crash at Te Hauke, SH2, near Hastings on March 10, 2016. Inset, Hemi Rapaea.