• Lomu dies surrounded by his family
• Eldest brother learned of death on the radio
• Tributes flow from all over the world
• Jonah Lomu's wife has spoken of the "devastating loss"
• Sir Graham Henry: 'It's just a hell of a shock'
• 'It's a game that has given me so much' - Lomu during the 2015 RWC
• 'I noticed his talent on day one, he was tall and slim for a Year 9 boy' - Lomu's high school coach
• SKY Sport tribute channel for Lomu
• 'Thank god I didn't play against him' - Australian rugby great Nick Farr-Jones


Jonah Lomu died of cardiac arrest, family friend and former All Blacks team doctor John Mayhew has confirmed.

Lomu died at his home in Auckland surrounded by family this morning. He was 40.

Lomu's wife spoke of the "devastating loss" she and her family have suffered with the death of the All Black legend.

Nadene Lomu said: "It is with great sadness that I must announce my dear husband Jonah Lomu died last night. As you can imagine this is a devastating loss for our family."

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She asked for privacy for her family, especially her young children, during the "traumatic time".

Mayhew told the New Zealand Herald that Lomu's well-known kidney issues would inevitably have had something to do with his heart stopping.

"The final mechanism was something caused the heart to go into cardiac arrest, most probably a cardiac or pulmonary event," he said.

"Cardiac arrest is the final pathway of the heart shutting down. That's all there is really."

Mayhew said people with chronic kidney disease have an inflated chance of heart issues.

After hearing the news, victorious World Cup-winning All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has paid tribute to his former teammate this evening on social media.

"I still can't believe the sad news today," McCaw posted on Facebook. "Jonah was an incredible rugby player and a top bloke. My thoughts are with his family. Rest in peace mate."

I still can't believe the sad news today. Jonah was an incredible rugby player and a top bloke. My thoughts are with his family. Rest in peace mate.

Posted by Richie McCaw on Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark noted Lomu's death on Twitter, posting an image of the winger in full flight.

"RIP #NewZealand @AllBlacks rugby great Jonah Lomu who died 2day: legend. Sincere sympathies to family."


A tweet from Irish Rugby also paid respect.

"A game changer, a legend, an All Black. Our prayers are with family & friends of @JONAHTALILOMU @AllBlacks #RIPJonah."


English rugby great Lewis Moody posted: "Can't believe the news that #JonahLomu has died. Such a sad day. He single handedly changed the game of rugby. Rugby's 1st global super star."


And former England skipper Will Carling posted a selfie of him and Lomu at Twickenham.

"Just before RWC Final with the great man. Rest easy Legend. Gentle off the field, awesome & unstoppable on it."




Members of Lomu's extended family gathered at home in Mangere to support each other following the devastating news.

Nehoa Lomu said he first heard about his younger brother's death on the radio.

"I just came from work. I heard it on the radio. It's just really sad," he said.

Nehoa said their mother, Hepi, had been taken to another family home.

"What happened, happened. But we are very proud of my brother and what he did for New Zealand and also Tonga."

Another brother said their mother was "like any other mother would be" following the news of her son's death.

Inside the house, photos of the rugby legend and his two young sons could be seen on the walls.

The street outside Lomu's home is lined with parked cars - some up on the berm.

Many evening dog walkers and joggers pay their respects as they pass by, leaving flowers at the gate.

Tongan Aucklander Tuamelie Lasike arrived at the Lomu house just after 7.30pm with his young daughter and son to drop flowers.

Mr Lasike said he was shocked to hear the news of Lomu's death earlier today.

He was a "big fan", he said, but also knew Lomu a little bit through his marriage to one of Lomu's aunties.

"He's a rugby hero, I think, in the whole of the Pacific and New Zealand," Mr Lasike said.

Kids place flowers in the letter box of All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu. Photo / Dean Purcell
Kids place flowers in the letter box of All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu. Photo / Dean Purcell

Lomu's cousin Mataiasi Lomu posted a tribute online.

"What a tough blow for my family and relatives. Especially to Nadene Lomu and my nephews who lost a father and husband my prayers will be with them for they are my blood."

Former All Blacks Michael Jones, Eroni Clarke and Ofisa Junior Tonu'u also arrived at the Lomu residence wearing dark coloured clothing to pay tribute to their former team mate and his family.

Family later watched on as a silver hearse left the property.

Former rugby players Ofisa (Junior) Tonu'u, Eroni Clark and Michael Jones arrive at the home of Jonah Lomu in Epsom. Photo / Dean Purcell
Former rugby players Ofisa (Junior) Tonu'u, Eroni Clark and Michael Jones arrive at the home of Jonah Lomu in Epsom. Photo / Dean Purcell

Lomu's kidney battle

For many years the former All Black winger battled the rare kidney disorder known as nephrotic syndrome.

It began to make itself apparent even when he was making global headlines steamrolling England into submission at the 1995 Rugby World Cup and afterwards.

Lomu had a kidney transplant in 2004 which helped him in his battle for seven and a half years. But his body rejected the replacement organ in 2011.

The replacement kidney was donated by The Hits radio host Grant Kereama.

Kerema, who has never spoken publicly about his relationship with Lomu, posted on Facebook: "Devastated... I love you, my brother. Xxxx"

Co-host Polly Gillespie, who was married to Kereama at the time, said her heart was "smashed".

"I can't believe it's true... One of my best friends is gone," she wrote.

Jonah Lomu will be remembered as a rugby legend. Photo: Mark Dadswell/Allsport / Getty Images
Jonah Lomu will be remembered as a rugby legend. Photo: Mark Dadswell/Allsport / Getty Images

"Grant and I loved you like our own brother, and life without you already hurts so badly. I can't stop crying. I can't stop wishing I could have somehow done something."

Lomu's former manager Phil Kingsley Jones said: "Today is one of the saddest days of my life, hearing that one of the most wonderful young men I have ever known and who was like a son to me, has been taken from us.

"Jonah was a big part of my family and we are all shattered by his passing.
He gave the world so much pleasure. Most people think of him as a rugby superstar, but to me he was always that young man from Welsey College who was great company.

"I have seen him grow from the young man he was, to the perfect gentleman he had become. We had exciting times together and I will treasure his memory always. The world will will be a poorer without him.

In one of Lomu's last interviews he told the Daily Mail he would be a "lucky man" if he made it to 55.

FROM THE ARCHIVES
Iconic World Cup images: Jonah Lomu over Mike Catt
Jonah Lomu: The Big interview

"There are no guarantees that will happen, but it's my focus," he said just three months ago.

"My dad died young and that makes you think. I want my boys to be healthy and if they get to 21, they should be fit and healthy and live a normal life.

"When I look in the mirror, what I see is my two sons. They're my priority. The two boys were miracles. Medically, it wasn't supposed to happen because of my kidney stuff. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I'd be a dad.

"Now, when I wake up in the morning, instead of looking in the mirror and thinking, 'What am I going to do today?' I look in the mirror and think, 'I've got the two boys, now get yourself up and get yourself moving and try to be the best dad you can be'."

Lomu 'looked fine' less than a day before he died

Jonah Lomu arriving home at Auckland Airport in an image posted on Twitter on Monday. Photo: CRAIG NORENBERGS
Jonah Lomu arriving home at Auckland Airport in an image posted on Twitter on Monday. Photo: CRAIG NORENBERGS

Kiwi boxer Dave "Brown Buttabean" Letele saw Jonah Lomu less than a day before he died and says he "looked fine."

Letele told Sportal.com he was waiting at Melbourne Airport after watching his friend Mark Hunt fight at UFC 193 when Lomu came up to him and said hello.

"We were at the airport waiting to board and he came down from business lounge and gave me a hug," Letele told Sportal.

"I fought his brother about a year ago, so he just came down and gave me a hug and said hello.

"It was just a quick chat and a hug - he was there with his beautiful kids. I wanted to ask for a photo but I was too shy.

"I saw him again at Auckland Airport loading his bags - and they were big bags and he seemed fine...it's just such a shock."

Letele beat John Lomu in a second round TKO in October last year, the two were fighting on the undercard of Joseph Parker and Sherman Williams.

Letele told Sportal Jonah was one of his heroes and they both came from Mangere.

"I was a league person but only watched rugby because of him. I always wanted to watch games he was playing.

"He was from Mangere which is where we were from, so we were from the same background and they were just a working class family."


'It's a game that has given me so much'

Lomu spent the last couple of months touring the UK with his family for the Rugby World Cup. "By the end of it I'll have learnt the ins and outs of every clinic in the country," he joked to the Telegraph.

"I am thankful that I have a beautiful wife and the kids are here. Nadine makes sure that my family stays together. She is my manager, my wife, my best friend and my boss!"

He hoped that his children would get a special insight into the game where their father made his name.

"It's a game that has given me so much and it's an opportunity to show them what their dad used to do," he told the Daily Express. "They love their rugby."

Lomu's last tweet was sent from Dubai on Monday - sharing a video of a dancing fountains in the city.

An article in the United Arab Emirates travel magazine, Josour Magazine, has a picture of Lomu playing with his kids on a beach during the recent trip to Dubai.

The online article says Lomu and his family were taking a few days to rest and relax at the resort complex Madinat Jumeirah after their time in the UK.

"The family stayed for 4 days at the newly renovated Jumeirah Mina A'Salam and enjoyed the warm weather and the private beach, taking time to visit Wild Wadi Waterpark and Souk Madinat," the article says.

Lomu told the magazine: "It's been great this time having my family with me to enjoy the resort and we look forward to returning to Dubai very soon. Thank you to all the great staff we met and made friends with during our stay."

Meanwhile, tributes came from all corners of the globe as news of the rugby great's death became public.

"It is just so sad, I saw him at the World Cup and he looked so well. It's just a hell of a shock," said former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry.
He marvelled at Lomu's transition from shy teenager to an articulate, sought-after public speaker.

"He was a very shy boy. He would hardly say a couple of sentences.

"He was educated through the game to a large extent. In recent times he had become a highly sought-after ambassador for the game. He spoke exceptionally well. I remember hearing him speak at a couple of functions and being very, very impressed.

Thoughts and prayers with the Lomu family at this time, love you my USO RIP #thegreatest

Posted by Joseph Parker on Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Key 'absolutely shocked'

Prime Minister John Key said he was "absolutely shocked" by Lomu's death.
The last time the two had met, the rugby great had told Mr Key he was "feeling better than he had for a long time".

"It's just terrible news," Mr Key told reporters in Manila.

"He was someone that knew his heritage and history well, and Pacific culture, but absolutely loved the All Black jersey and loved the interaction he had with the New Zealand public."

Labour leader Andrew Little said today's news was extremely sad.

"He is the beginning of the age of professional rugby...he epitomised that All Black image of unstoppability," he said.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown also paid tribute to Lomu, calling him one of Auckland's "greatest sons".

"He was an icon who New Zealanders from every walk of life respected both for his prowess on the rugby field and for the way that he dealt with his health issues," he said.

At Lomu's former high school Wesley College, an assembly was held in his honour. "Firstly our thoughts are with the family. I think this is going to be quite a shock for them because my understanding was that he had recently been in reasonably good health," said principal Steven Hargreaves.

"As a school we are in a state of shock, a number of staff members had relationships with Jonah or his rugby teams at school, and they are very upset."

The All Blacks flag and New Zealand flag have been lowered to half-mast outside New Zealand Rugby headquarters in Molesworth St, Wellington.

NZ Rugby chief executive Steve Tew, addressing the media in Wellington, said that Jonah Lomu, "the game's first superstar", died at home.

Mr Tew said it was an "incredibly sad day" and New Zealand Rugby was working to support and console Lomu's loved ones.

"There's a lot now to obviously work through but we should reflect on the amazing contribution Jonah made," Mr Tew added.

"His bursting onto the international stage took the game to another level and was probably an important spark for the game getting the opportunity to go fully professional."

Mr Tew said an entire generation fondly remembered Lomu's spectacular performances in the 1995 World Cup.

He said wherever the superstar travelled, he became a "magnet" for attention.

Mr Tew said few details of Lomu's death were immediately available.


Kronfeld: He changed rugby forever

Former teammates have also reacted to Lomu's death.

A deeply emotional Josh Kronfeld hailed Lomu as "the man who changed the face of rugby, forever".

Kronfeld, who played beside Lomu in the World Cup-winning All Blacks squad of 1995, says he has been left shocked and devastated by the news of Lomu's death. He saw him in good spirits a matter of weeks ago.

"Obviously Jonah has had a battle with kidney issues in recent years, but it's nevertheless shocking to hear of what's happened. I'm devastated," Kronfeld said.

Blues head coach Tana Umaga said Lomu was a unique person.

"There's never been another Jonah Lomu, has there? Everyone's tried to manufacture one or tried to put forwards out to the backs or put someone on the wing who had the same size as him.

"There was no one like him. To be honest there probably never will be."

On the deaths of three former All Blacks this year, Umaga said it was a lesson not to take life for granted.

"If you love someone let them know because you just don't know whether it will be the last time," he said.

"These are the things that are starting to hit home more and more, especially this year."

The coach of the national Tonga Rugby team paid tribute to Lomu saying he was a great sporting ambassador who gave hope to all Tongans.

Mana 'Otai said: "He epitomises what it was about: it doesn't matter where you come from or how you start in life but what you make of it.

"He gave a lot of hope for young Tongans, both male and female alike, of what he had become. He was one that could inspire others, myself included."

'Otai, who played for Manawatu, North Harbour and Auckland, said Lomu was a huge flag bearer for Tonga.

"Although he played for the All Blacks he was known worldwide as a Tongan. For Tonga, as a small island nation, that's something Jonah has provided for us, the worldwide knowledge of where the island is in the Pacific," he said.

'Otai said that Lomu still did what he could to promote the game despite his illness and was spotted holding tackle bags for youngsters just a few weeks ago in the United Kingdom.

"He was still out there being a great ambassador for rugby."

'I noticed his talent on day one, he was tall and slim for a Year 9 boy' - Lomu's high school coach

The former All Black's old coach first noticed Lomu's sporting talent when he arrived at Wesley College as a young teenager.

Chris Grinter was deputy head at Wesley College when Lomu was a student there and was his coach for three years.

"I noticed his talent on day one, he was tall and slim for a Year 9 boy," he said. "But whether it was athletics, basketball or rugby, any sport really, he had this incredible natural ability."

He remembered the younger Lomu as a "strapping young lad" who fit right into the school.

"Physically he was a wonderful athlete," he said. "It was great to see him progress and turn this immense talent into a sporting ability. It was a thrill to watch him make the most of this."

In Lomu's 2004 autobiography Mr Grinter was credited for helping steer the young teen from South Auckland onto the right path as the "first real father figure since I [Lomu] had left Tonga".

"The young Lomu hung out with a gang that beat people up on the streets and stole cars.
It could have all gone so differently, but he was saved by school sport and Chris Grinter," an excerpt from the book read.

But Mr Grinter said it wasn't difficult to steer the teen onto a more positive path.
"He was a good person, always respectful and polite."

Over the course of the day Mr Grinter said he'd replayed many of the highlights from his years coaching the younger Lomu.

The last time he'd seen him was last year when the rugby legend had asked him to write a foreword for his latest book.

"I'll remember him as an immense talent, a superb athlete who transformed rugby...no-one replaced Jonah's position and the magic he conveyed."


"Left some magic behind'

Chief executive of Kidney Kids NZ Keith Mackenzie expressed his sadness at the loss of the man he considered more than just a patron for the organisation - but a friend.

He said the former rugby great had always been willing to help kids, like himself, who were suffering from kidney disease.

"He was a stalwart of our organisation ... He was a larger than life person, who despite his own issues with kidney disease, never complained."

Lomu was also an ambassador for Unicef New Zealand. Patrick Rose, a spokesman for children's charity, said Lomu had "left some magic behind".

Mr Rose said the world has not only lost a sports champion but a champion for children.

"We are very, very shocked by the news. It is a very, very sad day. Jonah was a real champion for children and that's why he started for us, calling for a better outcome not just for New Zealand children but children around the world."

Mr Rose said Lomu's experiences travelling the world helped instil his beliefs about bettering the lives of young people.

A highlight of Lomu's involvement with the charity was a Christmas campaign where he donned a silly jumper to encourage people to buy Unicef inspired gifts instead of "naff" items for their loved ones.

"We have wonderful memories of the things he did with us. Our international colleagues still talk about what an amazing thing he did for us.

"Every step of the way with Jonah has just been a really wonderful advocate and a genuinely wonderful guy to work with."

SKY Sport tribute channel for Lomu

SKY Television has launched a pop-up channel "in memory and tribute" to Jonah Lomu.

A statement from the broadcaster this afternoon said SKY Sport will screen a selection of Lomu's famous matches, along with the recent documentary Jonah Lomu - Back to South Africa, on channel 058 from 5.30pm this evening.

The channel has been named "Jonah" and will be available for all SKY customers with the SKY Basic package.

The special coverage will start with a screening of the Jonah Lomu - Back to South Africa documentary, and the games and documentary will be replayed until 6am on Monday.

'Thank god I didn't play against him' - Australian rugby great Nick Farr-Jones

Australian legend Nick Farr-Jones, speaking from Sydney, said Lomu's passing was "very tragic".

"It's extremely sad for his family, for your country, [and] for the rugby world," he said.

Farr-Jones commentated the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa and said that was when Lomu "burst onto the stage".

"I think that we can always talk about what were the best World Cups, but when you talk about who was the most influential in a World Cup, you'll never go past him in '95."

He said he had been getting a number of emails this afternoon from people in the Australian rugby community expressing their shock at the news.

"Because a number of us had seen him at the [2015] World Cup and he looked well and he had aspirations...to be at his children's 21st and so it's a shock for people," he said.

"When you lose someone who strutted their stuff on the biggest stage in international sport, and you lose someone very quickly and unexpectedly, it shocks you."

Farr-Jones, the halfback in the 1991 World Cup-winning Wallabies side, said he was grateful he did not have to play against Lomu during his career.

"Thank god I didn't play against him. I stopped as he started, I can thank god I didn't play against him because he was a brute of a man on the rugby field, a wonderfully soft person off it.

"But I hear all the stories at the after-match lunches and dinners and all that about how you try and tackle the guy. I mean, I feel blessed I didn't have to try and tackle him."

Also paying tribute to the rugby star was the man who helped him write his autobiography, Warren Adler, who described Lomu as a "special human who truly loved giving".

"He was a special brother."

Mr Adler said his most abiding memory of Lomu was when they got onto the topic of the 1995 Rugby World Cup semi-final game versus England where he virtually ran over English player Mike Catt to score a try.

The writer said Lomu was rather reluctant to talk about it as he didn't want to humiliate the English player.

"He didn't want to hurt anyone...he was modest to the end - a man of great humility."


REPORTING TEAM:

Anna Leask, Vaimoana Tapaleao, Simon Plumb, Susan Strongman, Steve Deane, Morgan Tait, Isaac Davison, Corazon Miller, John Weekes, Cherie Howie, Lynley Bilby and Scott Yeoman.