Peter Carrette, Bondi supreme photographer

Peter at his computer, where he died 'at the helm'. Picture: Nate Smith

It’s hard to recall a week of such high emotion – first my dear mate, photographer Peter Carrette died, then all the New Zealand miners were declared dead while I was covering that story and finally came the amazingly good news that three young lads, missing at sea for an incredible 50 days have been found alive.

I had rushed to Greymouth from Auckland (where I was on another assignment for London’s Daily Mail) and watched with sadness the anxiety of relatives of the men who were trapped in the Pike River Mine.
There was hope in their hearts; the explosion on the previous Friday had been huge but perhaps, just perhaps, some of the 29 miners were still OK and, not wanting to move into an area filled with toxic methane and carbon monoxide gases, were waiting for rescue beside a ventilation shaft.
As I waited for further news my mobile phone rang. Another photographer friend, Simon Runting, who lives in Auckland, asked if I’d heard the news, just spreading, about Peter. As soon as he asked that question I knew something was wrong. Then he told me that Peter had passed away at his computer in his Bondi flat.
Like all his many friends, I was stunned. I wandered up the main street of Greymouth, passing a group of relatives waiting for news of their loved ones still missing underground. If grief were tangible, it would have been visible around all of us. There is not enough room here to talk about Peter and the jobs we have been on, the fun we have had. His life was a book. Controversial, non-conforming, jovial, generous, good-natured…put them all after his name and they all belong. His sudden death was a tragedy that hung over me for the following two days when the second shocking news came – that there had been a second blast at the mine and it was not survivable. The town was filled with tears, mine among them but for different, more personal reasons.
I haven’t been able to get home in time to attend Peter’s memorial but I know that what people will have to say about him will remain in everyone’s hearts for a long time to come.
The only joy to come out of a week of sadness was the story I was able to write about the discovery of three teenage boys, missing for 50 days in a small boat in the Pacific Ocean. In days gone by Peter and I might have been winging our way into the Pacific to get the pictures and the interviews. The boys had drifted across 1,000 miles, surviving on raw fish, the flesh of a seagull and a few splashes of rain water before mistakenly drinking sea water. But they survived and were soon on their way to Fiji on the tuna boat which found them.
Farewell my old friend Peter, may the miners rest and peace – and let’s be thankful that at least three young lads have a life to look forward to after their ordeal.

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