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Indian-origin Kiwi player dead

india Updated: Jun 26, 2007 19:09 IST

IANS
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The death of a 21-year-old hockey player of Indian origin in New Zealand last weekend remains a mystery.

Nettin Ashok Patel was found lying with serious head injuries in the early hours of Sunday on a street in Napier, 332 km from here. He died at the Hawkes Bay Hospital in Napier's twin city of Hastings later in the day with his family by the bedside.

According to reports, after having played in a Central League semi final match for his Palmerston High School Hockey Club Saturday, Patel had gone out with another member of the team. Their team had lost the match.

Patel and his friend got into a taxi in the car park of the Thirsty Whale in the Ahuriri area of Napier at about 2 am Sunday, according to a report in the Dominion Post.

The taxi driver, who dropped the duo near a winery on Faraday Street, later told police that both the men appeared intoxicated.

Reports quoted Detective Senior Sergeant Bill Gregory of Napier police as saying that a man driving home around 3 am came across Patel lying in the middle of Faraday Street, apparently very drunk.

He helped Patel to the side of the road and then called the police. But by the time a police patrol reached the spot, Patel had disappeared and the police, instead, found his friend. Thinking they had found the man, they took him to the police station.

Around 4 am, two men found Patel lying unconscious 100 metres from the winery. He was then taken to the Hawkes Bay Hospital where a scan revealed that he had serious head injuries.

Police have not ruled out foul play in the incident and are continuing their investigations.

"At this stage we're not satisfied it is an accidental death," reports quoted Gregory as saying. He could not confirm rumours that Patel was the victim of a racial attack.

Meanwhile, the family of the victim is arranging for his funeral, pending the post-mortem report.

The victim's uncle, Paul Patel, told the Manawatu Standard that the family congregated at Hawke's Bay Hospital Sunday before he died.

"We were lucky that we were all with him in the hospital."

Stating that hockey meant everything to his nephew, he said: "Nettin just adored it. He had a stick in his hand from age of five and was quite a nifty player."

Patel had played for New Zealand's national under-15 and under-18 squads. He was studying for a business degree in Massey University at Palmerston North, 180 km from Napier.

His father Ashvin Patel, a shopkeeper, has been suffering from a chronic illness.

Hockey Manawatu is planning a guard of honour at Patel's funeral.