Whangamata hero firefighter and surf lifesaver dies in Hawaii

Fireman Haydn Fraser, pictured in 2009. PHOTO/KELLIE BLIZARD
Fireman Haydn Fraser, pictured in 2009. PHOTO/KELLIE BLIZARD

A much-loved firefighter and top surf lifesaver who died tragically in Hawaii is being remembered for heroic efforts saving scores of swimmers from drowning.

Haydn Fraser died last week at the start of a holiday in Hawaii. He was 31.

His heartbroken mother Shona Robb told the Herald he was a "super young man" and counted herself incredibly fortunate to have him as her son.

She said he had just arrived on the island for a break before he met with a "tragic accident".

"It's an absolute tragedy for all of us," said Robb. "It is the cruellest thing that has ever happened in my life."

She said her son's death had been felt keenly in many communities throughout the North Island.

"He was an absolutely adored young man.

"Everybody just loved Haydn. And everyone is really hurting now."

Haydn Fraser was born and raised in Hawke's Bay before becoming a member of the New Zealand Fire Service, serving at a station in Auckland.

He was also a member of the Whangamata Surf Life Saving Club and club president Nathan Hight said on the club Facebook page that he was one of the best surf lifeguards for many years, saving the lives on Whangamata beach.

"He openly gave his time to support younger lifeguards, was a regional lifeguard and went on to have a career as a professional firefighter."

Hight told the Herald that many people owed a great debt to the man they knew affectionately as "Monsta".

"He saved many lives - often children - at Whangamata beach.

"I remember one afternoon in particular when he and my brother were patrolling
and between them they did 19 rescues, " said Hight.

He was also an exceptional mentor to youngsters at the club.

"Monsta was one of our best surf lifeguards for many years, saving many lives on Whangamata beach. He openly gave his time to support younger lifeguards, was a regional lifeguard and went on to have a career as a professional firefighter."

The fit and capable senior guard had started at the club as a teenager and had worked as a professional lifeguard before pursuing a career in the Fire Service.

In recent years he juggled the two demanding roles volunteering at the club on weekends throughout the busy summer season.

He said his great mate was an outstanding man with a solid set of values and would be deeply missed by his friends at the club.

"These sort of people don't pass by very often."

A service celebrating Fraser's life will take place at the Hastings Fire Station on Monday.

Any messages can be forwarded to The Fraser Family, C/o PO Box 439, Napier 4140.

- NZME.

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