The widow of a New Zealand worker killed when a pipe exploded on a Sydney construction site has described the moment she was taken to see his body in a hospital room.

Michael Murphy, known as Murf, died yesterday morning when one of the high-pressure water pipes he was working with on the IMAX Theatre construction site in Darling Harbour burst.

The 49-year-old suffered what New South Wales Ambulance staff described as "very significant injuries to his face and head" and died at St Vincent's Hospital.

This morning, his wife, Phim Kwan, said she was told of her husband's death soon after she arrived at the hospital.


"A doctor came and told me he died, and asked if I wanted to see him."

She did.

Doctors told her not to look at Murphy's face, which was covered, she said.

"I just touched his hand. They said you can touch his hand, but you can't see his face."

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The couple met when Murphy was holidaying in her home country of Thailand, and they married 10 years ago.

Kwan has an 18-year-old son, but the couple had no children together.

Her husband was a kind man who was "really funny".


"He was really good to me."

Michael "Murf" Murphy and Phim Kwan married after meeting in Thailand. Photo / Supplied

The former Aucklander enjoyed simple pleasures, such as a drink, eating his favourite foods and the All Blacks - Murphy's Facebook page is littered with photos of him in All Black gear.

Murphy's mother was dead, but he had a father and sister in New Zealand and another sister in Melbourne, Kwan said.

An uncle was on his way to Sydney from New Zealand and a decision was yet to be made about her husband's funeral and final resting place, Kwan said.

Phim Kwan and Michael
Phim Kwan and Michael "Murf" Murphy were married about 10 years before Murphy died while working on a Sydney construction site. Photo / Supplied

He had lived in Australia for most of his adult life, including seven years in Perth, before the couple moved to Rose Bay in Sydney, she said.

A crime scene was established at the construction site and police would prepare a report for the coroner, ABC reported. Safework NSW had also been notified.


The IMAX Theatre was torn down in 2016 as part of a $700 million redevelopment called The Ribbon, being built by construction company Grocon.

Grocon shared their "deepest sympathies" to Murphy's family and friends.

ABC reported that the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union had previously criticised the company for not doing enough to keep workers safe.

"The union has been alerted to a range of issues throughout the life of The Ribbon site at Darling Harbour,: a spokesperson said.

Kiwi Jim Adams, pictured with his wife Diane Adams and grandaughter Teghan Adams, died in a workplace accident in Sydney in 2017. Photo / Supplied
Kiwi Jim Adams, pictured with his wife Diane Adams and grandaughter Teghan Adams, died in a workplace accident in Sydney in 2017. Photo / Supplied

Murphy's death comes more than two years after another New Zealander, longtime tunneller Jim Adams, was killed in Sydney when he was struck by part of a pressurised pipe.

The pipe had detached during tunnel work at the NorthConnex motorway project in Sydney's northwest.


Adams, a 65-year-old grandfather of six, came from a family of underground workers.

He died days before the anniversary of his eldest son's death, which happened as they worked together in an Australian mine 15 years ago.