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The accident happened on the course of the Race to the Sky hillclimb near Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand, three days before actual race day, on which Possum was due to compete with his Subaru Impreza.

Dunedin based motorsport journalist, David Thomson, pieced together a synopsis of the events of Bourne’s accident:


“Possum Bourne and his family were staying at the accommodation complex at the top of hillclimb road.  The hillclimb road is the route of access to this complex and also to workshops used by some teams.  Possum was driving down the hill from the complex in his Subaru road car.  

“At the same time a convoy of 10 cars - all road cars - with a lead car controlling their speed, headed up the same road in a low-speed reconnaissance of the hill. It was around midday on Friday 18th April.  The weather was fine, but the road conditions were dry and very dusty. The road was not closed at the time, as it was not an official day for competition.

“Possum encountered the convoy as he neared the bottom of the hill. His and the ninth car in the column - a Jeep Cherokee driven by local competitor (and Subaru driver) Mike Barltrop - collided.  The collision occurred about 1.5km up from the bottom of the climb, at a crest on one of the widest stretches of the road.

“It appears that both cars swerved in an attempt to avoid each other, but due to the drop-off on outside of the road, both swerved to the inside (ie. Possum swerved left, and Barltrop swerved right). Possum’s car took the impact in the worst possible place - around the driver’s door.

“The two cars were locked together in the crash, and it took rescue crews 75 minutes to separate the cars and cut Possum out.  He was then flown directly to Dunedin hospital (about a 30 minute flight), which was the closest hospital with the necessary neurological care facilities.  Barltrop suffered a broken leg, and was later released from hospital.

“Possum, however, was badly hurt, having sustained two broken legs, chest, and serious head injuries.  He was, apparently, initially able to breathe unassisted at the accident scene but was put into a medically-induced coma shortly afterwards.

“When an attempt was made to decrease ventilation support on the weekend following the crash his condition deteriorated. Further medical evaluation, including a brain scan, led to the conclusion that full support was no longer in Possum’s best interests.

“The decision was taken on April 27 to gradually decrease Possum’s life support.  He passed away at 12.58am local time on Wednesday, April 30.

“His passing was marked with an unprecedented outpouring of national mourning for a Kiwi sportsperson. Possum was born at Pukekohe, south of Auckland, on 13th April 1956, started rallying in 1979 in a Ford Cortina V8, and left a wife Peggy and three children, Spencer, Taylor and Jazlin.”
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