Mini-tornado at Rotorua league match sends spectators running for safety


Runaway marquees at Rotorua sports tournament.

It was like a perfect tackle. It wrapped her up and threw her on the ground.

But it wasn’t part of the league match La Winitana was playing in Rotorua at the weekend.

Her tackler was a large gazebo that had been thrown into the air by what witnesses described as a mini-tornado hurtling through the Westbrook Reserve.

Winitana saw a large officials’ gazebo fly over her head, turn in the air and come straight for her. She got caught in the tent material and it knocked her to the ground.

Seconds later, another spectator gazebo was also lifted off the ground, twisting and turning into the air before crashing into a hedge that lined the outskirts of the fields.

The dramatic event was caught on camera as spectators ran for it and metal poles and tents went flying.

Spectators can be heard on the video footage screaming and yelling “get away”.

A mini-tornado that swept through the Westbrook Reserve was caught on camera. Photo / Supplied
A mini-tornado that swept through the Westbrook Reserve was caught on camera. Photo / Supplied

Rotorua Lakes Council sport development manager Mel Rika said the large gazebo, which was used by New Zealand Rugby League officials, was pinned down with stakes and ropes but was lifted into the air.

“There was no way anyone could have prevented it or stopped it. Thankfully there were no injuries.”

Winitana said her Wellington Orcas team were into the second half against Counties at the National League Championships.

“We had kicked off to them and I remember watching them touch it and the ball go dead and we were celebrating but then I felt something come over me and I just thought it was the wind but didn’t worry too much because I’m from Wellington.”

The large tent then turned in the wind and came back over her.

“I thought s***, s*** it’s coming back and next thing I am on the ground.”

Tio Taiaki from Wellington was watching his daughter, Hinemaia, play in the Orcas team while his other daughter, Karere, was videoing the match on her phone.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the tent come flying.

“It wasn’t a small tent either. All the players tried to stand on it to stop it lifting again. A few seconds later we heard all the screaming and directed the camera at the other end of the field where another tent went up.”

He described it as “surreal” and lucky that no one was hurt by the flying metal poles.

“It reminded me of the Wizard of Oz, not a league game. It was cool at first but then it got spooky.”



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