Rotorua's Simon Reilly dropped his mate Kieran McDonogh at Rotorua Airport two weeks ago and wished him well on his trip of a lifetime to Canada.
But last night Reilly saw a post on Facebook that said McDonogh had been killed while snowboarding in Vancouver.
McDonogh, 42, posted a smiling photo of himself on Facebook just hours before he was found unresponsive at the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort in an out-of-bounds area on Friday.
Ski patrollers performed CPR on him before two doctors arrived, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Reilly told the Rotorua Daily Post today he was stunned and it hadn't quite sunk in yet McDonogh wouldn't be coming home.
He said his mate had been counting down the days to the trip.
"He was really excited about going on this trip, it was his life dream to go and snowboard on the Whistler. He was really amped and had some friends over there who he was going to catch up with."
McDonogh moved to Rotorua from Auckland in November after falling in love with the area.
Reilly said his friend, who loved the outdoors, could never quite get over how locals could drive five minutes and be in the forest, then drive another 10 minutes and be at a lake.
He lived alone but had plans to bring his elderly parents from Auckland to Rotorua for two to three weeks at a time to allow them to get out of the "rat race" and enjoy Rotorua as well, Reilly said.
"He worked in online marketing so it was ideal because he could work from anywhere."
McDonogh and Reilly, who met through mutual friends in Auckland, would go out for a beer or a meal at least once a week and catch up.
"When he came here we showed him around and showed him the lakes. A week before he left [for Canada] the mountain bike club had a working bee and he took part in that for about three or four hours and loved it.
"He would go out mountain biking about five to six nights a week and do a three-hour stint. He loved going out for missions, had his GoPro and took pictures and posted them most days on Facebook. He fell in love with this area."
Reilly described his friend as a "mentoring" type of person who was always positive with a "happy-go-lucky" nature.
It wasn't in his nature to live on the edge or be unsafe, so he was confused about how he died.
"He could bike higher grades like four and five but would stick to the threes. He would just buzz out with all the adventures."
Reilly said McDonogh's brother and sister lived in Auckland and his sister had flown to Canada to bring his body home.
Steve McNab said he met McDonogh when his family decided to rent out their Rotorua home at the end of last year.
"He was a dream tenant really. He was the same age as me, we had similar interests and I remember showing him around the property and we ended up chatting for a few hours."
McNab, who owns Raftabout whitewater rafting company in Rotorua, said they hit it off with McDonogh and he and his family went around to visit him in the week before he left for Canada to wish him well.
"He was really looking forward to the trip. I guess he went out doing something he loved to do.
"We took him whitewater rafting because we wanted to show him the rivers. We tried to welcome him as much as possible. It's a shock really that such a young guy is gone."
McNab said McDonogh had made friends in the neighbourhood, mountain biked with locals down the road and had already signed up to volunteer at Crankworx.
"He was an asset for the community with his marketing knowledge and the sort of person he was. He would have brought a lot to the city but I guess now we will never know. It's a real tragedy."
Messages and tributes have begun to be posted on McDonogh's Facebook page.
"R.I.P. Your last post was a happy one. Take Care Kieran," said one friend.