Kiwi, Sam Kerry, who died in Japan avalanche remembered by friends

Kiwi Sam Kerr died doing what he loved - snowboarding. Photo / Supplied
Kiwi Sam Kerr died doing what he loved - snowboarding. Photo / Supplied

Dunedin-raised snowboarding guide Sam Kerr, who died after being swept away by an avalanche in Japan, is being remembered as a caring man with infectious energy.

Mr Kerr (35) was snowboarding in an off-limits area at the Niseko ski resort in Kutchan, Hokkaido when a 200m-wide and 350m-long avalanche hit about 2.30pm on Saturday.

He leaves behind his wife Yuka and their 4-year-old son Rui.

The former Otago Boys' High School pupil first travelled to Japan with his friend Steve Verheul on a month-long snowboarding trip in 2005. Mr Verheul (36), of Dunedin, yesterday told the Otago Daily Times the friend he called Ren "fell in love" with Japan and returned in 2007 to immerse himself in the culture and establish his back-country snowboarding business Niseko Xtreme Tours.

Mr Kerr was safety-conscious and had completed a mountain safety course in Wanaka.

He carried emergency equipment, such as shovels and an emergency position-indicating radio beacon when snowboarding.

He often guided professional snowboarders.

"He was very good ... he was renowned for what he did."

His friend had "so much energy" and "always had a smile on his face".

A photo Mr Kerr posted to Facebook just hours before he died captured the passion he had for snowboarding and the energy he could "spark up" in other snowboarders in his group.

Mr Verheul said he remembered Mr Kerr's favourite catchphrase "embrace the awkwardness".

"If we were out somewhere, if he saw somebody who looked a bit awkward he would get in there and be nice to them and put them at ease - he was a really caring guy."

His mother Linda Armstrong lived in Australia and was travelling to Japan with other family members, he said.

On Facebook, Mrs Armstrong, acknowledged the outpouring of support for "my boy".

"His joy of life was contagious, he loved adventure and he loved his family and friends unconditionally. I am so proud of you my son," she wrote.

Mr Verheul, and his wife Alex Verheul, started a Givealittle page on Saturday night to support their friend's wife and son.

"He connected with so many people across the world and it's a chance for people to donate to help his wife."

More than $15,000 had been raised in the first 24 hours. Mr Kerr was a "remarkable" man, who made friends easily and loved his work, Mr Verheul said.

"He was deeply passionate about people and adventure and that came across in everything he did."

Alex Verheul, also of Dunedin, said she was "devastated" when she heard the news of the death about 8pm on Saturday.

He had been snowboarding with friends, and not clients, when the avalanche hit.

He was an "extremely confident" snowboarder and was simply "in the wrong place at the wrong time".

Another person was reported to have sustained minor chest injuries in the avalanche.

Click here to donate to the Givealittle page.

- Otago Daily Times

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