Lying in a hospital bed in an induced coma and hooked up to life support, Covid-19 victim Nigel Te Hiko was not aware his older brother had died.

But by the end of the week Alan and Nigel Te Hiko will be reunited once more, the siblings laid to rest in Tokoroa Cemetery.

It's been a wretched fortnight for the Te Hiko whānau, cruelly ripped apart by the resurgence of coronavirus in the upper North Island.

A regular weekend visit catching up with family in Tokoroa early in August had proved deadly, with two siblings in different regions tragically losing their fight against the killer infection.


Last Thursday mourners farewelled Auckland-based father-of-four Alan, the first to die during this current outbreak. The 58-year-old devoted Warriors' fan passed away in Middlemore Hospital on September 4, after contracting the virus at his Americold coolstore workplace early in August.

His tangi took place last week at Ruapeka Marae, and he was laid to rest in Tokoroa Cemetery on September 10.

Now a week later extended family are gathering at Ōngāroto Marae, near Ātiamuri, for his 54-year-old younger brother's tangi after he succumbed to the disease following a month-long battle with Covid-19 in Waikato Hospital.

Today whānau spokesman Chris Mckenzie revealed Nigel's last few weeks had been spent on a ventilator as the respected Raukawa historian and te Reo advocate was put in an induced coma to counter the ravages of the virus.

With word he was not going to make it, whānau were invited to spend time with him.

"He passed away surrounded by his family," said Mckenzie.

He said the pair will be lying in plots not far from the other after the latest burial takes place on Saturday.

"He will be there near Alan. They come from a very large family in Tokoroa."


For the whānau, losing two members in quick succession had left everyone reeling.

"It's surreal," said Mckenzie.

"We've had deaths before but these seem particularly devastating in how it occurred in such an unlucky fashion."

Mckenzie said everyone was still in shock at how rapidly Nigel's health deteriorated.

"When Nigel became ill I was surprised he went downhill so quickly," said McKenzie.

"Like the rest of the country we were worried and taking all the precautions but Covid was happening to others.


"We thought we were safe so long as we social distanced and clicked on the QR codes," he said.

Mckenzie said when the brothers got together before falling so terribly ill, Alan appeared in good health and unaware he was spreading the virus.

When Nigel started to show symptoms he went straight to the doctor to get tested, said Mckenzie.

"He contacted us even before he got tested to tell us he was not well and self-isolating. "

After getting a positive result, around 100 whānau, friends and close contacts were asked to self-isolate.

In the meantime Nigel had left Tokoroa for further care.


He was admitted to Waikato Hospital on August 19 and transferred to the intensive care unit a week later as his health took a turn for the worst.

"He had been in an induced coma for a couple of weeks," said McKenzie.

The Ministry of Health first alerted the country on August 14 that two people in Tokoroa had been infected with Covid. At the time health officials said the cases were linked to the new Auckland August cluster.

Then tragically on September 4 the first Te Hiko sibling, Alan, died in Middlemore Hospital with family visiting before he passed.

Eleven days later Nigel lost his battle, becoming the 25th victim and the youngest person to die of Covid in New Zealand.

This week the brothers' whānau issued a plea to the nation that "coronavirus is so real" and to be very vigilant and cautious. They also wanted New Zealanders to not put others at risk, telling people "if you are sick and have symptoms, stay home".

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