A FORMER Taunton dentist has died in a car crash just three weeks after retiring.

Christopher John Ledger, 80, died after his car hit a brick structure in New Zealand, where he had lived for the past 18 years.

He moved there in 2000 after taking early retirement from dentistry in Taunton in 2000.

He later told the Golden Bay Weekly he had arrived in New Zealand "with a backpack and a little money in my pocket".

He initially took up a locum post with a dental clinic in Golden Bay, Takaka, before becoming the proprietor and dentist at the Golden Bay Dental Centre.

Mr Ledger also ran a backpackers hostel with his wife, Hiromi, and a taxi service.

The cause of the crash near Ward on State Highway One in Marlborough, South Island, on Tuesday, November 20, has been investigated by police.

The vehicle was discovered by passers by, including an off duty firefighter.

Among the tributes to Mr Ledger, friend Margaret Maloney described him as a man "who put everyone else first".

She told New Zealand's Stuff website: "He accomplished so much and will be sadly missed.

"Wherever there was a need he could help with, he would be there."

Golden Bay Dental Centre colleague Nicki Moyle called Mr Ledger "an amazing community man".

He said: "Everyone in Golden Bay is really grieving because he kept going to 80 just to look after us, at the clinic and in the community.

"He was such a generous, giving and kind community man.

"He would have retired years ago, but he just wouldn't do that to Golden Bay."

Mr Ledger, whose funeral was held in Collingwood, Golden Bay, on Tuesday, November 27, leaves a widow, Hiromi, daughters Fiona and Alison, son Kent and granddaughters Anna and Emily, as well as brothers David and Nicholas.