16 Feb 2023

Dave van Zwanenberg: Widow says firefighter who died in Muriwai dedicated to family, community

3:05 pm on 16 February 2023
Dave van Zwanenberg, volunteer firefighter who died in Muriwai during Cyclone Gabrielle

Dave van Zwanenberg will be remembered for his good humour, his care for others and the calm competent manner in which he handled complex situations, his widow says. Photo: Supplied / van Zwanenberg family

The firefighter who died after getting trapped in a slip on Auckland's west coast was an extraordinary man who cared for others in times of pressure, his widow says.

Dave van Zwanenberg with his children

Dave van Zwanenberg with his children. Photo: Supplied / van Zwanenberg family

Amy van Zwanenberg has released a statement on Thursday afternoon about the death of her husband, Dave, who died while responding to a callout in Muriwai on Monday night.

He was trapped in a house after another property collapsed on top of it. A second firefighter suffered critical injuries in the tragedy and is now being treated in hospital.

Amy said the family was devastated by the death of her husband who was the cornerstone in their lives. He always enjoyed spending time with his children and helping to nurture them, she said.

"We decided that Muriwai and its beautiful community was the perfect place for this," she said in a statement.

Monday night started out as just another occasion where her husband knew his family was safe and then headed out to help his community.

She said she had since visited the site where her husband died and appreciated the courage of crews who had continued to search for him in atrocious conditions and threats to their own safety.

"It was palpable that they had been searching for one of their own, and they devoted themselves to that impossible task with the fervour one does for their own family."

She said the family had also received a lot of support from friends as they went through a horrendous time grieving for their loss.

"Reliability and dependability were his core values, whatever the weather. Dave was blessed with the unique abilities so few possess, to not only survive but thrive in extreme environments and circumstances, performing complex tasks and caring for others calmly under pressure."

He used these skills in his job as a vet and also for his hobbies that included being a pilot, kite surfer and ultra-marathon runner.

"Dave will be remembered for his good humour, his authentic care, his astronomic intelligence and supreme competence at pretty much anything he turned his hand too."

Amy said she was deeply grateful to Urban Search and Rescue crews, police and all the fire and emergency crews involved, but especially to Dave's brigade, "who have been so deeply affected".

Dave and Amy van Zwanenberg, a Muriwai volunteer firefighter who died during Cyclone Gabrielle

Dave and Amy van Zwanenberg. Photo: Supplied / van Zwanenberg family

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