A VET who worked in Devon before moving to New Zealand has died in New Zealand’s Cyclone Gabrielle.
Tributes have been aid to UK-born, Royal Veterinary College London-trained vet Dave van Zwanenberg who was a volunteer firefighter in the small beachside settlement of Muriwai in Auckland New Zealand.
This week New Zealand was ravaged by a one-in-100-year storm caused by Cyclone Gabrielle. Van Zwanenberg was part of a crew of firefighters investigating flooding at a house on Motutara Rd – the main access into the small, beachside settlement of Muriwai – when a slip occurred, and the house collapsed late on Monday night.
On Tuesday, the New Zealand government declared a national state of emergency, only the third in the country's history.
On Wednesday, national Fire and Emergency confirmed they were able to recover the body of Dave van Zwanenberg from the landslide. His death was one of seven caused by the cyclone, with authorities fearing a much higher toll as roads remain blocked and towns unable to be accessed by emergency workers.
Forty-one-year-old Van Zwanenberg worked as a vet in Devon before moving to New Zealand in 2008 where he worked as an equine vet at the rural clinic, Vets North.
His widow Amy van Zwanenberg has released this statement to media: ‘(Auckland, New Zealand) My family is utterly devastated by the sudden loss of my extraordinary husband, Dave van Zwanenberg, who was the cornerstone of our lives.
‘First and foremost, a family man, Dave was dedicated to spending quality time with his children and building a life to nurture their growth. We decided that Muriwai Beach in New Zealand with its beautiful community was the perfect place for this.
‘Monday night started out 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.
‘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 this multifaceted skill set in his profession as a veterinarian, where so many have benefited from his care and in his personal pursuits as a pilot, kite surfer and ultra-marathon runner. But he also loved a good book on the deck.
‘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!
‘Yesterday I was able to see the search site and speak to some of those who had been involved in his rescue and recovery. It grew a new depth to my gratitude for the courageous crews who had continued to search for my husband under absolutely 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. I am deeply grateful to Urban Search and Rescue, the NZ Police and all the fire and emergency crews involved, but especially to Dave’s brigade, who have been so deeply affected.
‘I would also like to publicly thank my dear friends who have immediately come to my little family’s aid and supported us with their special talents, caring for us emotionally and practically and wrapping us in love through this horrendous time.
‘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.’