Amy is the head of news for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Friends and family pay tribute to young father

The pregnant partner of the young Tauranga man who died when his van plunged off the Maungatapu Bridge on Monday has described him as the "best partner" and "best kind of dad".

Gregory Mark Woledge, 24, was trapped under water when his Toyota van crashed through the railing on Maungatapu Bridge, just after 6pm on Monday.

His body, still inside his Amp'T electrical company van, was recovered the following day after police divers were called in to help with the search.

Friends and family have since paid tribute to the young father.

Chelsea Findsen, who is pregnant with Mr Woledge's second child, paid tribute to him on Facebook yesterday.

"Words can't describe of how much I will miss you, Greggy, best partner, so loving and best of all the best kind of dad anyone could ever ask for. I will always love you, Greg."

Ms Findsen said she and her children would keep talking to Mr Woledge even though he was gone.

"No one can ever take that away from us. Love you forever."

In a statement released last night, Mr Woledge's parents, Kevin and Vivienne Woledge, said he was a healthy 24-year-old who had everything to live for.

"Greg and partner Chelsea were looking forward to the birth of their second child in a few months. He was a gentle caring dad and a loving partner. We found Greg to be a loving, diligent and devoted person and a very caring and fine son. Greg and his sister Emma loved each other dearly and were the very best of friends.

"Greg had just become a qualified electrician and thought the world of the people he worked with and was looking forward to the future. He was a very keen sports person - snow boarding, mountain biking and crossfit. Greg will be sadly missed by us all."

Others who knew him described Mr Woledge as being a well-respected, positive guy who "always did the right thing".

Otumoetai College principal Dave Randell, where Mr Woledge went to high school, said his former student was well respected by the staff.

"You remember those neat kids who just got on with life, who did things well and were positive all the time.

"He certainly was one of them.

"He was a quiet, diligent person. He's just one of those nice kids you have in your school ... and it's really hit a number of my teachers."

Luke McGrure, owner of local gym Crossfit Tauranga where Mr Woledge was a member, said he was well-liked and popular.

"He was a real friendly guy. Quite a relaxed guy, laid-back."

CrossFit Tauranga had set up an account to raise funds for Mr Woledge's family and appealed for help on its Facebook page.

Constable Dean O'Connor of the Western Bay of Plenty road policing team has been named as the officer who stripped down to his underwear and dived from the bridge to save the life of Mr Woledge's 23-year-old workmate.

Mr O'Connor, who has been in the police force for 13 years, did not wish to speak publicly about his actions yesterday. He and another man saved the life of a woman involved in a crash near the same bridge in 1997.

Repairs to the bridge, which was damaged in the accident, were expected to be completed by the end of next week.

New Zealand Transport Agency highways manager Brett Gliddon said 10m of posts and railing were damaged.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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