Travelling organ concert lurches to halt after truck hits a tree

Residents of Stillwater Lifecare and Village in Nelson enjoy the show.

Supplied Residents of Stillwater Lifecare and Village in Nelson enjoy the show.

A travelling organ set for a series of concerts around the region has lurched to a halt after the truck hit a tree in the Wellington suburb of Northland.

Registered charity From Us With Aroha launched a national appeal in mid-May to raise funds to send two organists on two bespoke trucks on a contactless tour, performing for aged and palliative care homes across New Zealand.

The team were part-way through a free tour of rest homes as a way to help elderly residents feel connected to the community despite Covid-19 fears.

But the truck undertaking the North Island leg of the tour struck an overhanging branch on Raroa Cres at about 2.30pm on June 30, on its way back from a show at Selwyn Sprott retirement village in Karori, the tenth concert in the tour.

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Two trucks have been lent by Paul Ewing of Ewing Poultry in Nelson, and Ewing is fronting the cost for some of the repairs.

Supplied Two trucks have been lent by Paul Ewing of Ewing Poultry in Nelson, and Ewing is fronting the cost for some of the repairs.

More concerts were planned for Waikanae, Levin, Carterton, Havelock North, Hamilton, Napier, Rotorua, and Auckland, but these were now on hold.

Musician Kemp English was a passenger in the truck when they ran into the problem.

"Well, we ran into a tree to be exact," he said.

They had driven the same road the day before, forced to take a back road to avoid the Karori tunnel, which the 4.2 metre truck was too tall for.

Google street view shows the tree which caused the collision in the upper left corner, some previous damage evident in this picture, which was taken in August 2019.

Supplied

Google street view shows the tree which caused the collision in the upper left corner, some previous damage evident in this picture, which was taken in August 2019.

But this time the truck was forced to pull over to the left for oncoming traffic, and low branches collided with the upper part of the truck.

"And wow, what an impact," English said. "We all exploded off our seats."

The top of the truck was warped from the impact, and sent to a garage for repairs, which could take up to a week.

Charity president Sara Waterman said she couldn't explain how gutting the incident was.

Truck owner Paul Ewing of Ewing's Poultry lent the truck to the charity for the whole tour, and would front some of the cost for repairs.

Driver Grant Ellis has volunteered his time and services to the charity, and now needs somewhere to stay for the duration of the truck repairs in Wellington.

Supplied

Driver Grant Ellis has volunteered his time and services to the charity, and now needs somewhere to stay for the duration of the truck repairs in Wellington.

But the charity needed to raise money to cover the insurance excess, and accommodation and food for truck driver Grant Ellis, a visitor to Wellington, while he waited out the repairs.

Ellis was recruited to be both driver and audio visual technician, and was driving when the incident happened.

Without sponsorship or the donation of about £5000, the tour might have to be cancelled.

The tour to date had been "extremely well-received", with over 50 homes and thousands of residents and workers visited.

Kemp English, far left, chats to residents at one of the rest homes on the tour after his performance.

Supplied

Kemp English, far left, chats to residents at one of the rest homes on the tour after his performance.

Comments on the Givealittle page included; "Brilliant concept which my 85 years-young father and myself thoroughly enjoyed this past Monday at Huntleigh Home in Wellington.

"A big thanks to the sponsors, the crew, and Kemp, for bringing the organ truck concert tour to the north Island."

"The team has a fighting spirit, and we are asking any hotelier or business or warm-hearted people to help us raise the money we need to cover all the extra costs this week of setback will cost us.

"We cannot stop now, we must keep this tour going, please help if you can."

* Email [email protected] if you can help.

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