Minister for Emergency Management Kieran McAnulty surveyed devastated rural areas in the Tararua and Central Hawke’s Bay districts today. Video / Mark Mitchell
Cyclone Gabrielle has been described as the worst weather event of this century, claiming the lives of 11 people.
The biggest known loss of life was in Hawke’s Bay, where rivers burst their banks and sodden land gave way, sweeping young and old to their deaths.
There was also loss of life to the north, in Tairāwhiti, while two volunteer firefighters paid the ultimate price for their service to the community when a landslide came down on a stricken home in the Auckland beach community of Muriwai.
Here’s what we know about the victims so far.
Ian McKenzie McLauchlan
Ian McKenzie McLauchlan, 76, was located deceased in Waiohiki on February 17, police said. His obituary stated he was dearly loved by his wife and had two children.
“Police’s thoughts and condolences are with Ian’s family and friends,” a police spokesperson said.
Brendan Lewis Miller
Brendan Lewis Miller, 43, died after his work truck is believed to have washed away in floodwaters after it was driven over a collapsed bridge. His body was retrieved from the Kikowhero stream by a neighbour in Crownthorpe.
Police said he was located deceased on February 18. “Police thoughts and condolences are with Brendan’s family and friends.”
His obituary described him as “one of life’s characters, and a good friend to many”.
He had one son, described as his “shining star”.
Helen Street died in her home in Onekawa “in circumstances related to Cyclone Gabrielle” on February 16, police said.
“Police’s thoughts and condolences are with Helen’s family and friends.”
Susane Caccioppoli, a “devoted and protective” mother, who survived breast cancer twice, died after being swept away by rising floodwaters that hit the Hawke’s Bay home that she and her boyfriend were housesitting.
Susane’s daughter Bianka-Lee Bryan confirmed on social media that her mother had died.
Bryan described her mother as a cheerful, welcoming, and kind constant who was available to everyone at any time for a coffee, a chat and a laugh.
“She will be remembered as a devoted and protective mother, oma, daughter and sister, with so much love to give,” Bryan said in the emotional tribute on social media.
“She was gifted with a voice of an angel, blessing everyone at the local country music club for many years. She was always happiest when with her family.”
Floodwaters ripped through the Eskdale house that Susane and Gareth, her boyfriend, were housesitting at an “absolutely mad speed”, even though the building had been designed to survive floods – it was built on 1.2-metre piles.
Gareth was injured.
Property owner Maik Beekmans said the couple were inside the house and Gareth decided to secure some of their more valuable possessions and didn’t think it could get much worse.
“They both managed to get into the ceiling. When the water kept rising into the ceiling space they had to clamber onto the roof. And as they were trying to work their way from the ceiling space onto the roof, only Gareth made it,” Beekmans said.
“He tried to help her obviously but a log separated them,” said Beekmans’ daughter, Frederieke.
Ivy Collins, 2
The younger of Ella and Jack Collins’ two daughters died after she was swept from her pregnant mum’s shoulders as the family tried to reach safety at a neighbour’s house, after the Esk River sent a torrent of water through homes across the Esk Valley, north of Napier, early Tuesday.
They’d woken at 3am to discover water in the house, soon realising their lives were in danger, Jack’s brother Adam Collins told the Herald.
“They were trying to come up with a plan, they had a few minutes, trying to get the dogs inside, organise the pets, and then this wave came through which added to the water in the house quite significantly, sort of halfway up the walls,” Collins said.
“At that point they knew they had to get out. It’s a one-storey house, they didn’t have roof space.”
Mum Ella Collins described Ivy – “our beautiful baby girl” – as a “bright shining light… [who] charged through life with a beautiful smile on her face regardless of what stood in her way”.
The family also lost their home and a Givealittle page has been set up to support them.
The impact of their daughter’s loss would last forever, Ella Collins said.
“Right now it seems an insurmountable mountain but we have each other; my husband Jack, our daughter Imogen, our baby due in August and our families, friends and community.”
John Coates, 64
Rescuers tried three times to reach John Coates after floodwaters engulfed his home in Te Karaka, 30km northwest of Gisborne, at 2am on Tuesday.
“It went from ankle deep to vehicles floating in 20 minutes… It was like an inland tsunami of water coming in, basically”, son Chris Coates told the Herald of the flooding caused when the Waipāoa River breached in multiple places.
“The amount of water that was located in this area has made [Cyclone] Bola look like a storm in a teacup.”
Five hundred Te Karaka residents who did make it to safety would spend 27 hours trapped on a hill waiting for help.
Coates was part of a family that had lived in the Te Karaka area for more than a century.
He told the Herald in 2013 it was “a nice thing” to be connected to a place for a long time.
“I went to school here and still know a lot of people around today that I went to school with.”
The farmer, who also ran an earth-moving company, was a “huge member of the community”, Te Karaka resident Shawn Smyth said.
“John Coates Earthmoving, he does all the forestry, roading for all of the Mangatu… everyone will know that name,” Smyth said.
Marie Greene, 59
A much-loved mum described by her daughter Rachel as “generous and kind”, Marie Greene died when the Tūtaekurī River burst its banks and sent a torrent of water towards the settlement of Puketapu.
The son of Greene’s landlord found her body in her cottage, 13km northwest of Napier.
On a Givealittle page set up to support Greene’s daughter, the 59-year-old’s cousin Lance Julian described the loss of “one of the most generous people you’d ever meet.
“She had the sort of personality that everyone gravitated towards. She was an all-round people person who loved being with her friends and family. She was a smiling face on the checkout at New World in Greenmeadows,” Julian said.
George Luke, 65
The Taranaki rugby league community is mourning the death of local club stalwart George Luke, the father of former Kiwis star Issac Luke, after he died following a slip on the Taihape-Napier road as Cyclone Gabrielle swept over.
Luke and his partner Mau Goodman were returning to Hastings from Rotorua and took the winding route over the Kaweka Ranges when bad weather closed the Napier-Taupo road.
When the family did not hear from them a desperate search was launched, with appeals being made on social media.
They were eventually located yesterday and evacuated by helicopter separately and flown to Hawke’s Bay Hospital in Hastings, where Luke later died.
Goodman is recovering.
Former Warriors and Kiwis star Issac Luke said he was “broken” by his father’s death.
“My first hero,” he wrote on social media. “See you soon dad. I love you.”
The Hāwera Hawks also paid tribute to Luke on social media, referring to him as their “tōtara tree”.
“You were always there to guide us,” they wrote.
“Father, brother, koro, uncle, mentor and a friend. We are going to miss you dearly.”
Shona Wilson, 58
A mum of three teens, Shona Wilson died when a slip crashed through her home in Tūtira, north of Napier.
Her partner, Bill Chrystal – who survived along with Wilson’s daughter – dug for several hours in the dark through up to four metres of mud in an unsuccessful attempt to save his partner of nine years.
The slip crashed through a bedroom in the corner of the house on a Matahoura Rd lifestyle block, about 4am on Tuesday, Chrystal told his son Kalin.
Had the slip been a metre closer, all three would have likely perished, said Kalin, who was flown into the area by helicopter.
A Givealittle page has been set up to help family.
Dave van Zwanenberg, 41
The widow of the volunteer firefighter, veterinarian and father killed in a slip at Muriwai described him as the “cornerstone” of her family’s lives.
Dave van Zwanenberg died helping evacuate residents and is being remembered for his good humour, his authentic care, his intelligence and supreme competence at anything he turned his hand to.
Widow Amy van Zwanenberg said her family are utterly devastated by their loss.
“First and foremost, a family man, Dave was dedicated to spending quality time with his children and building a life to nurture their growth,” Amy van Zwanenberg said.
They decided Muriwai “and its beautiful community was the perfect place for this”, with Dave van Zwanenberg also living a full life that included being a pilot, kite surfer and ultra-marathon runner.
“But he also loved a good book on the deck,” she said.
Monday night started as “just another occasion where Dave made sure we were settled and safe at home and headed out to join the fire brigade and help his community.
“Reliability and dependability were his core values, whatever the weather.”
She was grateful to Urban Search and Rescue, police and all the fire and emergency crews who helped after the incident, but especially to her husband’s brigade – who were deeply affected by the tragedy – and friends who’d immediately come to her family’s aid.
“You give me the strength to continue to be the mum I need to be, to help Dave’s beautiful children thrive despite this pain, and to be the legacy that he would be most proud of.”
The Muriwai Fire Service has set up an official Givealittle fund to support families of both van Zwanenberg and his colleage, Craig Stevens, who also died as a result of the landslide.
Craig Stevens, 39
Muriwai firefighter Craig Stevens died in hospital two days after he was critically injured in the same slip that killed his colleague Dave van Zwanenberg.
Friends have set up a Givealittle for Stevens, to help support his wife Lucy and children Kauri, 6, and Tai, 4.
“I met ‘Rock n Roll Craig’ when he moved to Oxford, aged 16,” friend Alex Leech said.
“We went to many skateparks, saw bands, and listened to lots of music. I’m not really sure if he was like my son or my brother, but he was always my guide and mentor,” Leech said in a social media tribute.
“He grabbed life with both hands and shook it into submission, no matter what the situation.”
Stevens once said his mum told him to walk into any room like he owned the place, and “he sure did do that”, Leech said.
“Well stand aside Jesus, there’s a new guy in charge of heaven now.”
Both firefighters were remembered at beautiful services in Muriwai over the last two weeks.