16 June 2021

Tributes for Nigel Harris flow after Finke Desert Race tragedy

| Kim Treasure
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Nigel Harris

Nigel Harris was a passionate amateur photographer. Photo: Facebook.

Tributes have begun to flow for a Canberra man killed when a vehicle competing in the Tatts Finke Desert Race near Alice Springs left the course and ploughed into spectators on Monday.

Nigel Harris, 60, was struck by a vehicle that left the off-road track on 14 June. He died at the scene.

The Tatts Finke Desert Race is a multi-terrain two-day race for bikes, cars, buggies and quads through desert country from Alice Springs to Aputula (Finke).

Recently retired, Mr Harris was on holiday taking photos trackside when the car veered off the road and into spectators about 35 km from the finish line.

Social media has featured tributes from people who knew him and from those whose lives he’d touched in passing.

One spoke of a “lovely man” who took the time to engage with strangers and share his passion for photography.

“Thank you, Nigel Harris, for this amazing gift,” one read. “No one knew these would be some of the last photos you would take. We will treasure these photos and always remember that you took them.”

Mr Harris’s wife, Sheryl, thanked the public for their condolences on social media.

“My husband was a wonderful man, husband, father, and grandfather to his beautiful Evelyn, and would have been touched by your words,” Mrs Harris said.

“My sincere hope is that the driver manages to get over this and that the race continues as is in the future. Those would have been his wishes.”

According to reports, Mr Harris was at the end of a trip of a lifetime travelling around Australia after retiring last year. He was looking forward to getting home to his family in Canberra after the race.

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Northern Territory Police Commander of the Southern Command, Craig Laidler, acknowledged the tragic circumstances of this year’s event.

“Our thoughts are with the man’s family and friends during this difficult time and with the second spectator who was injured in the incident yesterday,” he said.

“I want to commend the police officers and first responders who I worked alongside, in difficult circumstances, for their dedication and professionalism.”

Police and race organisers undertook the challenging return of 406 motorbike competitors from Finke back to Alice Springs after the bike leg of the race was cancelled following the fatal crash.

“Each year, members of the Police, Fire and Emergency Services work tirelessly with other dedicated front line services to ensure the safety of not just the local community, but of the thousands of visitors who travel to Alice Springs to attend the event,” Commander Laidler said.

“This year was no different.”

Held annually on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June, the Finke Desert Race is one of the biggest annual sporting events in the Northern Territory and said to be one of the most difficult off-road remote courses in the world.

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