Two weeks ago Tim Zandbergen shouted 30 members of his family a holiday in Wanaka.

He was "living the dream" in Australia, he happily told his mum.

Now, that is all she has to remember. The 24-year-old from Timaru was killed in a freak boating accident in Perth on Thursday.

A speedboat was towing Zandbergen down the Swan River on a ski biscuit when it became airborne and struck a navigation marker.


His Australian cousin, 21-year-old Jesse Johnson, was also on the inflatable and needed surgery to his leg, but has now been discharged from hospital.

Zandbergen did not have a mark on him after the accident, Johnson told his family.

Zandbergen's mother, Michele Johnson, said she and her husband, Gerard, and their three other children were absolutely shattered.

"I just can't believe it," she said. "He had so many plans for the future. He loved life so much. He always said to me: 'Don't worry about me Mum, I'm living the dream'."

Her son had lived "on and off" in Australia for about five years and worked in an iron ore mine in Mt Newman, 1100km north of Perth.

The former Roncalli College and St Andrew's College pupil should have been back at work on Thursday, but his boss told him to stay in Perth a few more days because of bad weather, Johnson said.

Mining was not where he saw his future though - the keen cook was saving to open his own restaurant or cafe.

"He loved cooking. Pizza was his passion, and curries, and he did it with such love. He just spread so much love around," Johnson said.

The family was holding on to the memories made and bonds re-formed after Zandbergen paid for them to spend four days together at a lodge in Wanaka.

Zandbergen will be farewelled in Timaru.