Warning: This article contains graphic information that some people may find upsetting.

Tributes are flowing for a West Auckland father of three who died in a welding explosion at a house in West Auckland on Monday.

Howard Miller, 39, of Swanson, was a keen soccer player, Christian and family man.

"He was a family person. He loved his wife and his three kids," said best friend Stacey Leth.


"He loved his job, he loved welding, he loved having fun. He was always laughing."

Miller died when he visited friend Josh O'Neill's house on Universal Drive to weld a new exhaust manifold onto O'Neill's Holden WB Kingswood car at about 4.30pm on Monday.

When Miller arrived he was excited to tell O'Neill he'd managed to store two components of oxy-fuel, oxygen and acetylene, into one LPG bottle.

The two are normally kept in two bottles, each of which has a regulator, the two components meet at the welding torch causing the chemical reaction used to cut or weld.

"He didn't realise he had made a bomb," O'Neill said.

Howard Miller was a father of three.
Howard Miller was a father of three.

Police Detective Senior Sergeant Callum McNeill said there had been speculation on social media that the house was a P lab, but that was not correct.

"The investigation is ongoing and ultimately the matter will be considered by the Coroner, however initial indications are that Mr Miller had gone to a friend's house to help weld an exhaust onto a car," he said.

"Police's thoughts are with Mr Miller's family at this difficult time."


Leth, a 36-year-old photographer who now lives in Brisbane, said Miller was his best friend for the past 10 years.

Both men came from South Africa, but met in Auckland. Miller's father, Baptist Pastor Herbert Miller, and other family members came to New Zealand first and Howard followed.

Howard and his wife Abigail were regular church-goers.

"He was very religious, he loved God," Leth said.

The couple have three children aged between about 14 and 8.

Howard played in a social soccer team on Thursday nights.

"He was a good soccer player. He always played privately with friends," Leth said.

"He also loved to dance. He was always dancing - a very positive man.

"He was the type of person who, if someone said something wrong to me or to him, he would say, 'Oh, don't worry about it.'"

On his Facebook page, Leth posted: "Rest in Peace my Brother Howard Miller, just lost one of my closest friends ever."

Rest in Peace my Brother Howard Miller , just lost one of my closest friends ever, im going to miss you bro! very sad...

Posted by Stacey Leth on Monday, 3 September 2018

A friend commented: "Brooo! I remember this guy! He was cool and funny!"

An old schoolmate from South Africa, Davina Baartman, said Miller "will always be part of my fondest memories at school".

O'Neill said Miller survived the explosion and called for help.

"He started calling out 'Josh, Josh'," O'Neill said.

"He said, 'Can you help me man' and his face looked completely normal. Not panicked or anything."

O'Neill's initial reaction was that Miller may not have been badly injured because he was able to speak.

But it wasn't until O'Neill went to grab him by the arm that he realised the extent of Miller's injuries.

"I reached down for his arm.

"I thought, 'I can't grab that because it was all shredded up'.

"I said, 'Howard I don't know where to grab you'.

"I ran to get help then I turned straight back because I couldn't just leave him there."

Miller's head then slumped backwards. He died in front of O'Neill's eyes.