Te Wairongoa Paniona, known as Wally or Mr T, suffered serious injuries after his scooter was smashed in an alleged hit-and-run.
Te Wairongoa Paniona, affectionately known by the Whangārei community as “Mr T”, suffered serious injuries in the Sunday crash including a broken leg, broken ribs, collapsed lung and bruising.
His mobility scooter and beloved guitar were both smashed and left scattered in pieces across the road.
The 64-year-old is recovering in hospital but will need surgery on his leg once the swelling goes down, Mr T’s brother Netana Paniona said.
The crash occurred at about 4am on Sunday, October 15 on Cairnfield Rd in Otangarei, Whangārei, not far from his home.
Police said they are continuing to investigate the alleged hit-and-run, and are following positive lines of enquiry.
Natana Paniona said the time it is taking to make any progress is disappointing, but Mr T was feeling jovial on Wednesday morning.
The support of the community is more than the family could ask for, he said.
Mr T was well known in the Whangārei community as a bus driver, taxi driver, busking for charity and karaoke singer at The Grand Hotel.
Whangārei woman Tracey Harris said he was a “wonderful man” who used to make sure she, her siblings and friends got home safely on the Mangakahia Area School bus.
”On the last day of school, he used to buy boxes of ice-blocks and give them to all the kids.”
Harris said when she got older, Mr T used to make sure she and her friends got home safely from nightclubs in his taxi.
“To hear that some low-life didn’t afford him the same human decency in getting home safely is just unfathomable.”
The community has rallied around Mr T to help fundraise for a new mobility scooter, with extra funds going to buy a new guitar and help for him to recover at home.
Nearly $6000 was raised on a Givealittle page, which Harris said was well deserved after everything he has done.
Ministry of Transport
The Government is working on a road safety strategy to drive substantial improvements in road safety in New Zealand. (Video first published in December 2019)
Lesley Wikaira, general manager at The Grand Hotel where Mr T worked and sung karaoke, helped set up the fundraising page.
The main aim is to fundraise for a new mobility scooter – his only form of transport these days – to ensure he can have his independence back as soon as he is able to be out and about, she said.
“I heard his scooter had been completely smashed to bits,” she said.
The donations pouring in were no surprise as Mr T is “well-loved”, Wikaira said.
“He’s a very humble man who would help anyone.”
He also loves to sing and gives to charity all the money he makes busking about town, she said.
As well as the donations, the words of kindness left on the page are heart-warming, Wikaira said.