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Exchange Student Still Critical At Waikato

Media Release

Date: 11 December 2007

Exchange Student Still Critical At Waikato

The 21-year-old English agricultural exchange student shot in the head while out rabbit shooting with six others on Saturday has been identified as Matthew John Purchase of Wimborne in Dorset.

His parents Ian and Helen arrived at Waikato Hospital yesterday (Monday) afternoon from the UK and are maintaining a bedside vigil in the hospital's intensive care unit. The shooting took place on a farm at Waotu, 10km south-west of Putaruru.

Mr and Mrs Purchase flew out of the UK on Sunday morning (NZ time) only hours after they were contacted by New Zealand Police and did not have time to pack any belongings. They arrived with only the clothes they wore on the plane. Close friends Kate and Paul Norrish, of Brisbane in Australia, have flown to Hamilton to support them.

The couple, who farm 500 acres of arable and beef near Wimborne, say Matthew lives for his sport and for farming. He recently graduated from Reading University with a rural resource management degree and arrived in New Zealand in October on an agricultural exchange with Agri Venture NZ. He was expected to stay in the South Waikato area working until April and then planned to do some more travelling before returning to the UK later next year.

"Physically he's very strong," said Mr Purchase.

"He loved everything to do with farming and was really enjoying his time in New Zealand."

Matthew was milking cows and doing contracting work on a South Waikato dairy farm.

"He's very fun-loving - he lives for his sport. He loves skiing, rowing anything really," he said.

Since his arrival in New Zealand two months ago Matthew had been to Rotorua, White Island, done bungy jumping, sky diving, white water and black water rafting and hunting.

Mr Purchase said his son had a lot of experience with guns and is a keen hunter.

The group Matthew was in were in a utility vehicle, hunting and shooting rabbits under spotlights, when the tragedy happened about 11pm.

He is in a critical condition and is expected to undergo brain surgery on Thursday.

Mr Purchase said he and his wife were under enormous stress and preferred not to talk to the media.

They paid tribute to Air New Zealand who fast-tracked their trip to New Zealand and through Customs.

"We didn't have to think. They looked after us all the way and for that we are grateful."

They also thanked the South Waikato farming community for their messages of support and also Agri Venture.


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