Final farewell for Warriors fan killed rushing to game

Ronati Lemalu was struck and killed by a train at Penrose 28 August 2016 as he made his way to the Warriors game at Mt Smart Stadium picture supplied via facebook
Ronati Lemalu was struck and killed by a train at Penrose 28 August 2016 as he made his way to the Warriors game at Mt Smart Stadium picture supplied via facebook

The rugby league fan hit and killed by a train as he rushed across the train tracks to grab something from his car is to have his final farewell on Tuesday.

The Auckland father-of-two Ronati Lemalu had left a pre-game function at Mt Smart Stadium, where the Warriors were due to play at 4pm, on Sunday August 28, but he never made it back for the match.

At 3:45 that afternoon, he was hit and died at the scene of the accident, on the crossover between Maurice Rd and Station Rd in Penrose.

A death notice published in the Herald said a family service would take place on Monday September 5 at the Waitakere City Rugby Club, followed by a funeral on Tuesday, at 11am at the Trust Stadium Arena.

"Sadly announcing the passing of our amazing husband, father, son, brother," it read. "Soulmate and husband of Liana Lemalu, devoted father...

"Generous friend to many we would like to thank everyone for their love and support. Ronati will be sorely missed."

Last week relative and close friend Tony Lafotanoa spoke to the Herald.

He said he did not see the accident happen, but arrived on the scene about 10 minutes afterwards.

"Out of the corner of my eye I saw Ronati's wife and her sister walking down the road looking very distressed.

"She yelled out to me [and] I put two and two together."

Lafotanoa, who had known Lemalu for more than 12 years and worked closely with him as a rugby coach at the Waitakere City Rugby club for the last two, asked police to let him pray for his friend before they moved his body.

"They were fantastic because they allowed me to go on the tracks and go over to him. That's what his wife wanted me to do."

The seven police officers at the scene took their hats off as well, joining the family in prayer.

Lafotanoa remembered his friend as someone who would do anything for the people he cared about and in the community.

"He was a very passionate family man. He loved his wife and his sons. He was all about supporting his boys."

The rugby-mad coach, who had played overseas for a French club in his younger years, was an incredibly loyal friend who was hugely loved by his mates.

"He was a very happy guy, he always had a great smile, people loved being around him," Lafotanoa said.

"He had a huge heart for anyone and everyone that was in his life that needed his help."

Lemalu's wife, Liana Williams-Lemalu, was holding up, he said, "but it's obviously left a big hole in her heart and her life."

The couple had a very loving relationship and the whole family was sports mad.

"Ronati's background was mainly rugby but his sons were playing for the Te Atatu Roosters - rugby league."

Because of this, Lemalu was an ardent Warriors supporter and he made sure to take his sons to as many professional games as he could to help their development - a reflection of his love of the craft of coaching.

"He loved all sports but because his boys were playing league they followed the Warriors," Lafotanoa said.

- NZ Herald

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