'My protector' and his 'mini-me': Mum of Coromandel beach tragedy family pays tribute to husband and son

7:13 pm on 22 January 2023

First published on Stuff

Samuel, left, and Ian Cruickshank died after the family was swept out to sea during a holiday at Opoutere beach in the Coromandel.

Samuel, left, and Ian Cruickshank died after the family was swept out to sea during a holiday at Opoutere beach in the Coromandel. Photo: Supplied / Stuff

Ian Cruickshank still wanted to hold his wife's hand after 22 years of marriage, and always walked between her and the traffic in the street.

His wife Donna has paid tribute to him - and the son she thought of as his "mini-me" - after tragedy struck the family during a holiday at the Coromandel's Opoutere beach.

The Central Hawke's Bay family of six were on holiday with Wellingtonian, Ethan Goddard, 19, when they were swept out while taking a dip on January 18.

Ian Cruickshank could not be revived and on Saturday a body, believed to be missing son Samuel, was found.

In a statement, Donna Cruickshank described Ian as incredibly kind and loyal.

"In the big scheme of things, a good man is hard to find, and I found one. He was amazing... my protector.

"He was the kindest man. He'd do anything for anyone. Cliché, but true."

He treated the orchards he managed as his own and would have been blown away by the positive things being said about him by the people he worked with, she said.

Surf Lifesaving crews at Opoutere Beach after a group of seven people signalled for help.

Surf Lifesaving crews at Opoutere Beach. Photo: RNZ / Rayssa Almeida

The couple have three sons and one daughter and son Samuel, for whom a search was conducted, was most like Ian, physically, and in personality, Donna said.

"I've always thought about Samuel as Ian's mini-me. He was so kind, so funny, and just in the past couple of months we've really noticed his quick humour. It was lovely seeing that side of him. He's always been good with people; he loved being with people."

She said it's hard not to smile at some of the stories coming out about the 15-year-old, who loved ball sports, particularly basketball, and was soon to start Year 11 at Central Hawke's Bay College.

"We knew he was cheeky, but just how cheeky…"

As well as thanking all those involved in the search and rescue operation - Police, Surf Life Saving, Coastguard, LandSAR, Fire and Emergency, and the Royal NZ Navy - Donna had two special mentions.

The first was for the head of the search and rescue team, known simply to them as Joe.

"He told me he was making it his mission to bring Samuel back to us, and he did. We had absolute confidence in all the rescue teams, who did their absolute best for us, and we're so grateful."

Police have not yet formally identified the body found at Opoutere on Saturday but have said they believe it's likely to be Samuel.

"The local community here has also been incredible with offers of support, flowers, and so much food. It was nice to be able to tell our own community at home that we were being very well looked after. We are so very aware we're not alone."

Family friend Kate Taylor has set up a Givealittle fund to support the Cruickshank family, which had raised almost $30,000 by early Sunday afternoon.

Taylor said the Cruickshanks are a "wonderful family" and loved and valued members of the community who "would be the first to help anyone else".

Ethan Goddard, 19, the boyfriend of one of the Cruickshank children and who was also rescued, is now out of hospital, his mother said.

- This story was originally published on Stuff.

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