A father-of-nine who died doing what he loved has been described as the nicest man on the planet by his partner of 16 years.
That partner has been overwhelmed by support since Jason Cooper from Kutarere near Ōpōtiki in the Eastern Bay died when the truck he was driving failed to take a slight bend in State Highway 3 near New Plymouth in the early hours of June 4.
Cooper had been driving for Hamilton-based Regal Group for about nine months and was farewelled in Whakatāne on Saturday with a large Regal truck transporting his coffin to the crematorium.
A "lights on" video made for Cooper going viral on social media.
Cooper's partner of 16 years Corrie Cooper, and mother to their nine children ranging in age from 7 to 24, said driving was what her partner had always done.
"I have to say he died doing what he loved," Cooper said. "He was a driver, he'd always been a driver, and he loved driving so he could provide for his kids."
His love of the industry he worked in has been reflected in the 400-plus videos and photos provided to a friend of the Coopers, Terry-Lee Herbert.
Through New Zealand "truckie" social media pages, Herbert asked for truck drivers to upload photos of their rigs with the lights on as a tribute to Jason.
"My partner grew up around trucks, his Dad was a truck driver, and we've always been part of the truck pages on social media," Herbert said.
"When a truck driver dies other drivers leave their lights on as a mark of respect.
"We asked if they could send us photos and if they knew Jason, messages as a tribute to him. We thought it would be something nice for Corrie, the kids and also his parents."
Herbert said more than 400 photos had been received and more were still coming in.
"The New Zealand trucking community is very tight-knit and also very supportive but we have been overwhelmed."
She has also set up a Givealittle page to help Cooper and the children.
Cooper said she and her partner had moved from the Eastern Bay to Hamilton after she got a nursing job.
"Ironically we met in Hamilton 16 years ago and moved back home [for both of us] to the Eastern Bay after Jason started driving for Fonterra.
"Jason grew up in Kutarere and went to Waiotahe Primary School before attending Tauranga Boys' High when his mother shifted."
She described her partner as one of the nicest, if not the nicest, man on the planet.
"He never said a bad word about anybody. Even if someone was unkind to him, he would excuse their behaviour by suggesting they may be having a bad day."
When Cooper started her job in Hamilton early last year, Jason remained in the Eastern Bay and was a stay-at-home Dad for nine months until the family shifted to the Waikato.
"He loved every minute of being a stay at home Dad," Cooper said. "I don't think he really wanted to return to work."
She said she had been surprised by the vast and varied people from all walks of life who spoke about Jason at his funeral but she expected it.
"It showed just how loved he was."