A Kiwi dad killed in a crash in Vietnam last week was a free-spirited man who travelled the world - but his heart was always with his family.

The death of Michael Lee Waaka, known as Lee, is the latest tragedy in a long line for his mum Kay Wipani, who has lost her husband, a brother and now both sons in a few short years.

Waaka's sisters are hoping to ease their mother's pain a little by bringing Waaka home to New Zealand for a memorial service.

Older sister Yoland Power said Waaka moved to Sweden when he was 21. He has three "beautiful daughters" over there - Mica, 27, Manuella, 18, and Zoe, 10.


Recently Waaka had been travelling extensively in Asia. The family believe the 49-year-old had been in Vietnam for six to eight months before the accident.

A police officer arrived at Power's house in Dunedin on Monday morning asking if she had a brother called Michael Lee.

He told her Lee had been riding his motorbike and had been killed in a crash with a taxi in Vietnam's Hanoi province. There wasn't much more information.

"One thing we do know is it was pretty fast - he died at the scene. But we don't know anything else," Power said.

She has fond memories of her brother, a free spirit and a "ladies' man" , but one who loved his family deeply.

"Lee has always lived his life to the max," Power said.

"It didn't matter what he'd done to annoy you - he'd give you this stupid cheeky grin so he could get away with anything.

"He had that way with everybody - sometimes he would make you mad but you couldn't stay mad at him."

Although he was no longer living in Sweden and was continuing to travel the world, he always made time to visit his family, Power said.


Daughter Mica had only spoken to him 12 hours before the crash. She is on her way to New Zealand. Manuella is on an exchange in the US and the family are tracking down Zoe.

The past week has been spent battling to find out more through the New Zealand embassy. There's no word on who caused the crash or whether the taxi driver is okay.

"We've asked for the police report to figure out what the heck happened," Power said. "It's just been horrific having to go back and forth."

They fear Waaka's death has taken a permanent toll on their mum.

Since the news of Waaka's death there's been another tragedy for Kay - her brother died on Saturday.

Her finances are already strained and she has few family left. Her husband Richard died of a heart attack six years ago, and son Eugene died of an illness three weeks later.

Every day Waaka's body stays in Vietnam the costs mount up. They plan to have him cremated there and brought back on a plane.

"That will lessen the expenses which are accumulating at a phenomenal rate," Power said.

She and younger sister Marnie have set up a Givealittle page to help bring him home.

"Mum has to get a loan initially, then the Givealittle page will help to pay back the loan. It's to help Mum out - she's a pensioner living by herself."

The family just want to have the funeral and "say our last farewells", Power said.

""Mum has been through so much. We just want to help bring her eldest son home."