An hour-long late night encounter on a South Canterbury back road has convinced the Thew family of Temuka that unidentified flying objects do exist.
Mr and Mrs Ken Thew yesterday described how a multi-coloured flying object paced them along the Waitohi Road in the early hours of the morning of July 12, approaching to within 120 yards of their car and changing colours as it went.
Mr Thew, a motor mechanic, said they had always had an open mind on UFOs before their encounter, but were now convinced such phenomena existed.
Mrs Thew said they knew by the hour of the night, the manoeuvres and closeness of the object that it was not an aeroplane.
While Mrs Thew was frightened by the encounter and wanted to drive faster, her husband wanted her to pull over to the roadside to get a better view of the object.
They were returning to Temuka from Pleasant Point with their three daughters.
Mrs Thew, who was driving, said she thought the lights were a reflection on the wet windows. But after winding down the window, the couple could still clearly see the object.
They said it seemed to be approaching the car, then abruptly stopped about 200 to 300 metres away, then changed direction and began to pace the car.
"The sight itself didn't frighten me, but the car's speedo told the story of how my wife felt," Mr Thew said.
"When we opened the car window and the object came closer to the car, it was something we had never seen before.
There was no noise and it was quite apparent this was a controllable flying object."
Both Mrs Thew and her eldest daughter were intrigued by what seemed like the shape of a "... a figure eight" which seemed to be outside the object.
In movement, a fan-like tail of golden-red colour appeared to follow it, but the "tail" was not visible when it was stationary.
The object finally "shot away* towards the east.
It did not seem to move between two points, according to Mr and Mrs Thew — "suddenly it was just somewhere else."
Mr Thew said that as soon as he got home he wrote down all he could recall while the incident was still fresh in his memory.
The Thews said thai after reaching Temuka they followed the UFO, which was still changing colours to the east of the town, towards the sea.
Giving up the chase, they returned home, and the couple said when they looked up. the object was hovering above them at an altitude of about 1000ft.
Mr Thew said yesterday that although their sighting had been a fortnight ago, his wife had seen another strange light in the sky only three nights ago.
The Thews were unaware until yesterday that the shape and colours of the object they claimed to have seen were almost identical with a detailed UFO sighting in Illinois, America, in 1952.
In that sighting a nurse, Mrs Ann Sohn, described a similar shaped craft, complete with windows along the side and the same reddish colour to the object. - Timaru Herald (Timaru, New Zealand), 7/31/81
'Flying object' followed family
Nearly 30 years after a late-night encounter with a UFO, Temuka man Ken Thew remains convinced he saw something extraordinary on Waitohi Rd.
Yesterday, after authorisation from the Defence Force, more than 2000 pages of secret files held by Archives New Zealand were released.
The files are said to include every witness account of unidentified flying objects reported to authorities since the 1950s and Mr Thew said he would be interested in reading the files.
The now-retired mechanic said he did not think about the encounter unless other people brought it up in conversation, but he had spoken to others who had seen UFOs.
"What they have seen is different compared to what we have seen but that's apparently the way it is."
The memory of the large, bright object which accompanied Mr Thew, his wife, and their three young daughters home from Pleasant Point to Temuka on July 12, 1981 was still vivid, Mr Thew said.
"My thoughts are the same: what you see is what you see.
"It was a bit frightening for a start. We were just travelling home from a night at me cobber's place. The oldest girl said, `what's that over there?' and I said I had no idea."
The couple described to the Temuka Herald in 1981 how a multi-coloured flying object paced them along the road, approaching to within 110 metres of their car and changing colours as it went. They knew by the hour of the night, the manoeuvres and closeness of the object that it was not an aeroplane.
Yesterday, Mr Thew said the size and the brilliance of the object, which was shaped like a football, told him it was unusual.
However, while the encounter was reported in media, they kept a second part of the story to themselves and close friends – several visits by a man to their home and workplace shortly after seeing the object.
Introducing himself as Mr Wright, an "investigator" from Christchurch and dressed in a musty suit, he warned them not to contact or approach the object, Mr Thew said.
The man's behaviour was peculiar: he drank a cup of boiling tea in one gulp, read a page by scanning from bottom to top and knew the name of their pet dog before it could be told to him.
Before the encounter with the object, Mr Thew said he had a divided opinion on UFOs.
"If somebody had told me what I had seen myself I would sort of look at them and think, `well, okay'."
The object was something he was not familiar with and had never seen the likes of before, he said.
He did not rule out an natural explanation but said the speed at which it travelled and the intensity of its light were unusual.
The Thews' account garnered media attention in 1981 and they were visited unexpectedly by a television crew.
"They got the kids to draw pictures of what they saw," Mr Thew said.
Most of the responses they got were positive; people called them to ask them about the incident, and later a Polish professor visited them to learn more about their experience. Their story attracted a small negative response, with about five calls from people suggesting they were mad, he said.
However, Mr Thew stands by what he saw.
"I had my faculties; I know what I saw." - Stuff
The NZ Files: UFOs in New Zealand
UFOs & Alien Contact: Two Centuries of Mystery
A Lifetime Deal Alien Encounters