December 10, 2023

Dutch national who died in accident was living his New Zealand dream

Timon Brouwer died after falling off the back of a ute driven by his friend, Brad Shepherd.

A night out experiencing pig-hunting with friends ended in tragedy for a Dutchman who came to New Zealand to live his lifelong dream.

Timon Brouwer, 31, loved nature and the outdoors and dreamt of coming to New Zealand, saving hard for years and eventually arriving before the 2020 lockdown.

After two years here Brouwer was planning to return home, but as the world began to lock down due to the pandemic, he decided to stay in New Zealand as he had fallen in love with Northland and landed his dream job working at the Hundertwasser Arts Centre in construction.

Brouwer embedded himself in the local community and in 2022 began working at the Hundertwasser Farm where he continued to enjoy New Zealand life making friends with Karetu man, Brad Shepherd.

After a long day out pig-hunting with Shepherd and some friends, the group socialised well into the early hours of the morning when Brouwer got on the back of a ute driven by Shepherd at around 4 a.m. on August 6, 2022.

On the rear tray of the ute, were two pigs they had caught, and three men sitting on a dog box as Shepherd drove the crew on Paihia Road, South of Opua.

Shepherd was driving between 50km/h and 70km/h as he took a left-hand bend where Brouwer fell off the back of the ute. The friends immediately went to Brouwer’s assistance but being in a rural remote location, urgent help was some time away.

Brouwer died three days later in hospital as a result of blunt force trauma. Shepherd was charged with dangerous driving causing death.

At sentencing in the Kaikohe District Court, Brouwer’s family members appeared via audio-visual link from Holland and his sister, Sietske Brouwer made the trip here to read her victim impact statement.

She spoke of the difficult decisions the family had to make over either flying out to New Zealand or repatriating him to Holland. The family also ran into multiple issues with visas and it was not until August 27, when they finally had his body back in his homeland.

“We wanted to be there to speak to him. He was lying there all alone, with no friends or family around him. It was the sound of silence,” she said through tears.

After the funeral, the family flew out to New Zealand to see the life he had loved so much and make sense of the tragic accident.

“The trip to New Zealand was very intense and very sad. We still have questions about why and how this accident happened he was smart and wise so what went so wrong?”

Restorative Justice had been arranged with Shepherd and the Brouwer family. Shepherd’s lawyer, Catherine Cull KC expressed her client’s genuine remorse for the tragedy and the offer to plant a tree at Hundertwasser Park.

“Everyone thinks that is a real mark of respect for Timon and his clear love for Hundertwasser,” she said.

Judge Brandt Shortland said the aggravating features of the accident were fatigue from a long day out pig hunting and an overloaded ute not designed to carry so many people.

“You are genuinely remorseful and have expressed that. Whilst there was drinking, there was no indication of impairment on you. You rushed to him as best you could but in a rural road, you were never going to get him to a hospital in a timely manner,” he said.

Judge Shortland commended the 21-year-old for accepting responsibility noting he had 20 references that spoke of his honesty and good character.

“It’s a difficult thing to front up to a family who are grieving. He was a good friend of yours, he was a mate and to take responsibility for a grieving family is not an easy thing and I know you want to do what you can to put things right.”

Shepherd was sentenced to six and a half months of home detention and had saved $8000 to pay the family in emotional harm reparation.

“May I conclude by saying, don’t let this define your life. Timon will never be forgotten amongst your friends. You will move on but you won’t forget this experience.

“It is a tragedy.”

Shannon Pitman is a Whangārei based reporter for Open Justice covering courts in the Te Tai Tokerau region. She is of Ngāpuhi/ Ngāti Pūkenga descent and has worked in digital media for the past five years. She joined NZME in 2023.

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