The family of a Fijian man who died while boarding a plane in Auckland fear he may have had a heart attack brought on by his excitement at returning home to see his wife and children.

Father of two Yogendran Pillay, 38, collapsed on Air New Zealand flight NZ56 bound for Nadi, Fiji, before it left about 9am on Sunday.

Despite attempts to revive him by an off-duty paramedic who was on the flight, Mr Pillay died at the scene.

His body will be flown to Fiji today and his family say a funeral service will be held in his hometown of Labasa, on the island of Vanua Levu.


"He was a very loving and caring dad of two kids. He was a very good dad and a very good brother of ours," his sister Maureen Pillay said yesterday.

"He was just excited just to be coming home. We feel that [the collapse] happened because of all the excitement."

Mr Pillay, who had known heart problems, had spent two months in Auckland visiting family on what was his first trip to New Zealand.

He was a farmer with an 8-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son and had four siblings of his own.

Mr Pillay's Auckland family held a small ceremony for him at Ligaliga Funeral Services in Manukau on Monday with a funeral to be held in Labasa at the end of the week.

Funeral director Sam Achary said the family had to borrow from loved ones to find the $6000-$7000 needed for the funeral and to send Mr Pillay's body home.

Maureen Pillay said the family were still coming to terms with the death. "It's shocking. My sister is still in a state of shock, she's numb," Ms Pillay said.

"He was a heart patient, but physically he looked very cheerful, very happy. At first look you couldn't tell that he's sick."


The off-duty intensive care paramedic who was on the same flight as Mr Pillay had about 20 years' experience and is well known at St John.

Mr Pillay's siblings said they wanted to thank the paramedic for her attempts to save their brother.

"She tried very much," Ms Pillay said.