When 5-year-old autistic boy Savva Lopoukhine was happy he ran like the wind.

The little boy with a mop of blond hair couldn't communicate verbally but his loving parents Evgueni and Elena and 18-year-old sister Zoia always knew when he was happy.

"When he was happy he would run, he was so fast, people would say 'your boy, he runs like a champion'," proud dad Evgueni told the Weekend Herald.

On Saturday, October 22 the New Zealand-born boy of Russian heritage was especially happy.


The family drove out to Piha to spend the afternoon at one of Savva's favourite places.

"He loved it there because he could run, there was open space for him to be free," Evgueni said.

"He would play with his Tonka truck in the sand or just run."

At his funeral the family played all of Savva's favourite songs and Eric Clapton's 'Tears in Heaven', written by Clapton for his son, who also died in a fall.
At his funeral the family played all of Savva's favourite songs and Eric Clapton's 'Tears in Heaven', written by Clapton for his son, who also died in a fall.

The family had just arrived at Piha when Savva dashed ahead toward Laird Thomson Track at the northern end of the beach.

He was just in front of his parents but got out of sight with the twists and turns in the bush.

Panic set in when they realised Savva was not on the track.

Emergency services were called and his worried parents asked other beachgoers if they had seen the little boy in a yellow raincoat and red gumboots.

Savva was found a short time later - he had slipped down the side of the steep track and died in the fall.

"I never thought it would be like that, we thought we would find him, sitting, scared," heartbroken mum Elena said.

At the Lopoukhine's West Auckland home this week the family paid tribute to their loving boy "who brought sunshine" to their lives.

Video clips playing on the television show a laughing, affectionate and thoughtful boy who loved classical music.

In one clip Savva is mesmerised by his favourite song - the 1960s hit Les Champs-Elysees.

Others show him on a recent two-week family holiday.

The clips, taken to show family back in Russia, are now precious memories.

In every photo and clip of Savva his favourite toy - the red Teletubby Po - is within reach.

Po was also with Savva when fell down the bank at Piha.

When Savva's body was returned to his family dad Evgueni realised Po was still down the steep bank.

"I was trying to figure out how to get him back but it was dangerous.

"I was thinking of knotting a rope and climbing down," Evgueni said.

Twenty minutes later there was a knock at the door.

"There was the detective from the police, standing there with Po," Evgueni said.

"It was very special for us."

The family said they had been touched by the kindness and understanding shown to them by the rescue team and police.

At his funeral on Wednesday the family played all of Savva's favourite songs but also chose Eric Clapton's song Tears in Heaven.

Elena said she chose the song because like Savva, Eric Clapton's son, whom the song was written about, died in a fall.

"I just thought that song was perfect for him," Elena said.

The family said they would still visit Piha to be close to their son and had plans to approach Auckland Council about placing a memorial seat on the track.

A Givealittle page has been set up to help the family. Extra funds will go to help to help families of other autistic children.