Drowning victim a popular Wellington barista

By Georgina Campbell

Joshua Caleb Rongomai Leadbetter drowned in Eastbourne on February 5. Photo / Supplied
Joshua Caleb Rongomai Leadbetter drowned in Eastbourne on February 5. Photo / Supplied

On a scorching hot Sunday Bev Robinson called into her Petone cafe to grab a coffee from Joshie, a beloved local barista. Hours later she would get the call to say he had died.

Joshua Caleb Rongomai Leadbetter drowned in Eastbourne, Wellington on the afternoon of February 5.

The 30-year-old was desperate to hit the beach after days of the capital's less-than-summer-like weather but a dip in the waves cost him his life.

Leadbetter worked as a barista for more than five years at Beannie Cafe on Jackson St in Petone.

Robinson, who co-owns the cafe, said he was an icon in the cafe business.

"He was vibrant and bubbly, he knew everybody's name, he knew what everybody drank."

Beannie Cafe closed on the Tuesday after Waitangi Weekend to take time to grieve for Leadbetter.

Robinson said it has been hard carrying on without him.

"We've got grown men coming into the cafe crying.

"He was that popular, and on those first few days for local customers it's just been absolutely devastating. He was definitely a rock star in the cafe scene, everybody knew him."

Leadbetter lived in Wainuiomata with his mother and dogs, Ruby and Bruno.

He lived for making coffees, and the beach.

"We've been moaning like anything because it's been such a bad summer and all we ever talked about was getting out on the beach to get our tan on and to get in the water," Robinson said.

She said she last saw Leadbetter when she stopped by the cafe on February 5 to get a coffee on the way to Wairarapa.

Her daughter and Beannie Cafe co-owner Annie Robinson said Leadbetter went to Eastbourne with his friend Rachel after his shift.

Just like many have done before them, the pair decided to swim to the raft in Eastbourne.

But when Rachel turned around, Leadbetter was in strife.

Annie Robinson said previous reports Leadbetter was hit by a kite-surfer were incorrect.

"He literally just drowned."

Results of an autopsy are yet to be released.

Annie Robinson went straight to Wellington Hospital when she got the call Leadbetter was on his way there.

"All we heard is that he was in the helicopter and that he had a pulse so we really thought that we were going to see our Joshie again."

She never got that chance.

That night Annie Robinson and Leadbetter's friends stayed together.

"We all just hugged and cried and were in absolute shock, absolutely devastated.

"He was such a good soul, such a carefree beautiful human and being taken from us, it just doesn't seem right."

A funeral was held for Leadbetter at Life City Church in Wainuiomata on Monday.

Beannie cafe staff made sure there was plenty of food and of course, great coffee.

- NZ Herald

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