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New Zealand Highway Patrolman Killed in Collision

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July 17, 2004

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New Zealand Highway Patrolman Killed in Collision

Officer Down: Phillip Wipatene - [Wanganui, ]

Policeman described as dedicated and 'at times cheeky'

Phillip Wipatene was affectionately known as Piripi to his work colleagues, who described the police officer as a dedicated worker and "at times cheeky".

The senior constable was killed in a head-on collision on Oakura Bridge yesterday.

Sergeant Kevin Wellington, officer in charge of Taranaki's Highway Patrol, said Mr Wipatene started his career as a motorcycle officer with the Ministry of Transport.

He left the job to drive buses for a couple of years and returned to the department before it merged with New Zealand Police in 1992.

He became a youth education officer and taught thousands of Taranaki students about road safety.

"He had a wonderful way of getting his point across," Mr Wellington said. "He was great with the public and was very well-known to kids."

Mr Wipatene, who lived in New Plymouth, joined the Highway Patrol in 2002.

"We were delighted to have him with us," Mr Wellington said. He had a quick wit and was a wonderful team member."

Mr Wipatene was a police iwi liaison officer and worked closely with Maori and police following the shooting of Steven Wallace in Waitara in 2000.

Mr Wellington said Mr Wipatene helped other police officers with the Maori language and customs.

"If I wanted to know a Maori word, he'd be the first person I'd go to."

He said his colleague took enormous pride in his work.

"He loved his job and he'll be sadly missed. I've had some special times with Piripi."

It is understood Mr Wipatene is the first police officer to be killed in a car accident in 30 years.

He will be remembered by many for giving speeding motorists a warning, rather than issuing them a ticket.

Mr Wipatene is survived by his wife Merridee and four children.

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