More than $120,000 raised and memorial planned for family of Kiwi mum and children killed in Tweed River tragedy

Kiwi mum Stephanie King 43, her 7-year-old son Jacob Kabealo and 11-year-old daughter Ella-Jane Kabealo (right) died in the tragic incident. Photo/Supplied
Kiwi mum Stephanie King 43, her 7-year-old son Jacob Kabealo and 11-year-old daughter Ella-Jane Kabealo (right) died in the tragic incident. Photo/Supplied

Donations for the devastated family of Kiwi mother Stephanie King, who tragically died alongside her two children when their car plunged into the Tweed River in New South Wales, have topped $120,000 as family and friends prepare for a memorial in New Zealand.

King, 43, died alongside her daughter Ella-Jane Kabealo, 11, and son Jacob Kabealo, 7, when their van plunged off a muddy road and flipped into the swollen river in Tumbulgum, New South Wales on Monday.

Her third child, 8-year-old Chloe-May, survived after she miraculously escaped from the vehicle.

The tight-knit Tumbulgum community has rallied behind Chloe-May and her father Matthew Kabealo to raise more than A$122,000 (NZ$132,125) by 6.30pm Saturday on GoFundMe.

The GoFundMe page was set up by Club Managers' Association Australia, an industry association that Kabealo's employer, Kingscliff Bowling Club, belong too.

"The funds raised through your kind donations will help Matt cope financially and emotionally with this devastating event in the short term and help him and his surviving daughter rebuild their lives," the page states.

A family representative, Pastor Rob Stuttle, said a funeral for the three victims will be held at Elevation Church in Tweed Heads on Wednesday before a memorial is organised in New Zealand.

Stuttle and his wife Brenda teach scripture classes at Tumbulgum Public School, which Ella-Jane, Chloe-May and Jacob attended until this year when they moved to Dungay Public School.

"We had all three children in our classes," he said.

"They loved this community and this community loved them."

Stuttle said the horrific incident was particularly heartbreaking for the community as it happened on the back of devastating floods in Tumbulgum.

He said King, who worked at the local tavern, was "very loving towards her children". King was found in the front seat of her van clutching one of her dead children.

In a statement to the media on behalf of the family, Stuttle said the family is "heartbroken" and "devastated" at the loss of Stephanie, Ella-Jane and Jacob.

"It is a tragedy and they are suffering with enormous grief and ask that you respect their privacy at this time.

"Chloe-May, Matt and the family are doing as well as you would expect in these circumstances."

He said the family wanted to thank everybody who helped at the scene of the accident, some of whom put their lives at risk to try and save King and her children.

"Matt would particularly like to thank Phil Kelly and the staff at Kingscliff Bowls Club where he works, for all their support and the Go fund they have organised to raise funds for the family.

"And to you the public for all your love and support and best wishes for the family at this time."

There has been community anger over senior police claims that Dulguigan Rd had been closed after last week's devastating floods.

Stuttle said the family wanted to emphasise that Dulguigan Rd was not closed when King drove along it that fatal afternoon.

Police have since backed away from the claims but say they are seeking further information from Tweed Shire Council as part of a coronial investigation.

"Stephanie is a hero and the police have confirmed this. And Chloe-May is a brave young lady," said Stuttle.

- NZ Herald

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