Treena Hillman was just months off retirement and had plans to go travelling with her girlfriends after having worked all her life.

After a hard couple of years, which including losing a son, her partner and a best friend, her family told her to "take time for herself".

But in November last year, aged 64, the forklift operator for Rotorua's Damar Industries was pinned between a forklift and pallets at work, and suffered spinal injuries.

Ms Hillman with good friend Jenny Simon. Pictured before the accident. Photo / Supplied
Ms Hillman with good friend Jenny Simon. Pictured before the accident. Photo / Supplied

She spent months in hospital and in a spinal unit before being discharged in March and returning to her Rotorua home where she was in a wheelchair and required round-the-clock care.

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In a tearful interview, her daughter, Tracey Waiariki, told the Rotorua Daily Post her mother was initially determined to pull through for her family but in her final weeks she gave up.

On August 8, nine months after the accident and seven days after celebrating her 65th birthday, she died of pneumonia.

"I could see in my mum's eyes she was done," Ms Waiariki said. "I said 'If you want to, you can go. It's okay Mum'.

Ms Hillman in her wheelchair. Photo / Supplied
Ms Hillman in her wheelchair. Photo / Supplied

"She'd been an independent woman all her life so not being able to do anything for herself was a gutting thing for her."

The mother of four, who had 13 mokopuna, was still grieving for her partner, Rua Taitako, who died aged 76 in April last year.

Then, a month before her accident, her best friend, Kath Galvin, died. Two years prior, one of her two sons, Michael, died by suicide.

Ms Hillman and Ms Simon pictured after the accident. Photo / Supplied
Ms Hillman and Ms Simon pictured after the accident. Photo / Supplied

And 25 years ago, her other daughter was involved in an accident and suffered a brain injury, losing her memory of the family, so she didn't have contact with her.

"It was one hit after another," Ms Waiariki said. "All of the people she loved and cared for gone, and then the accident happened. I said 'Mum, we will get through this'."

Ms Waiariki remembered her mum as strong and motivational.

While in hospital, and still determined to live, Ms Hillman had a trachea put in her throat and the doctors told her it would be out in February.

Treena's beloved dog Molly. Photo / Supplied
Treena's beloved dog Molly. Photo / Supplied

"She was like, 'Like hell' - and she got it out on Christmas Day," Ms Waiariki said.

"We rung her, she got on the phone and goes 'Trace'. All of us just cried. I told her 'Mum, this is the bestest Christmas present ever ... just to hear your voice'."

When Ms Hillman was discharged, Ms Waiariki offered to bring her mother to her home in Christchurch but she wanted to go back to Rotorua to her beloved American pitbull, Molly.

Molly now lives with Ms Waiariki and her family in Christchurch.

Ms Hillman pictured with Damar colleagues after getting a certificate for 10 years of service at the company. Photo / Supplied
Ms Hillman pictured with Damar colleagues after getting a certificate for 10 years of service at the company. Photo / Supplied

"I'm sad but I'm not sad," Ms Waiariki said of her mother's death. "She's with Rua now, she's with her son. She's at peace."

Ms Waiariki said her mother had several girlfriends and before her accident had been planning to go on holiday with them in the summer after retiring.

"I asked her 'What are you going to do? Go on a trip. It's time for you, Mum'.

"She might have taken that step to go to Aussie. She had never made it out of New Zealand."

She splurged a little and bought new furniture after her partner died.

Ms Hillman's motto was "it is what it is", her daughter said.

"She didn't baby us. She taught us well for the future, to stand on two feet. She was a strong woman who raised another strong woman."

Damar chief executive Martin Carlyle also paid tribute.

"Our staff were very much a part of the farewell process as Treena saw Damar as her whanau."

A WorkSafe investigation into the accident has been concluded and a spokeswoman said no further action would be taken.