The young guide who lost his life in the Whakaari / White Island tragedy selflessly helped tourists to safety despite being injured himself and missing a gas mask.
Tipene Maangi, a 24-year-old guide for White Island Tours, lost his life with 19 others in the December 9 tragedy.
It has since been revealed that the death toll could have been higher had it not been for the brave actions of Maangi – who was a chronic asthmatic - and his work colleague Hayden Marshall-Inman, who also lost his life in the tragedy.
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Their heroics included helping critically injured 19-year-old Australian tourist Jesse Langford in the moments after the eruption. The teen's mother, father and sister all died when White Island blew underneath them.
In her first full interview since the disaster, the young tour guide's grandmother Ngaroahiahi Patuwai Maangi revealed she had been told Tipene – who she described lovingly as her "nanny's boy" – had been helping others despite not wearing a gas mask to protect himself from toxic gasses.
"What I did hear was when they last saw Tipene he was the only one without a mask and he was holding his asthma pump," Maangi said.
"It was hard [to hear]. He was a bad asthmatic and I don't even know why he should have been on that job."
It was not known if Tipene had lost his gas mask or had given it to someone else.
At a Celebration of Life service held in Marshall-Inman's memory on December 20, a helicopter pilot who helped ferry survivors off White Island spoke of how Hayden and Maangi had provided tourists with first aid, and ensured they were using gas masks.
Marshall-Inman's brother last week told the Herald that he had been told the actions of the pair had helped save others.
"I think one of the reasons why Jesse is still alive is through Hayden and Tipene looking after him on the island, making sure he was safe," Mark Inman said.
"Both Tipene and Hayden put all the passengers first that day. What more could you ask."
Patuwai Maangi said she was not surprised by the actions of her beloved grandson after the eruption.
Neither was she surprised by Hayden's heroics, having learnt a lot about the 40-year-old work colleague from his relatives, who she said she now had "grown a bond" with.
A photo of Hayden sits alongside one of Tipene at her house in Cape Runaway, on the East Coast.
"They had to [help]," she said.
"Hayden being much older than Tipene, he was always like that ... he always put others before himself."
Marshall-Inman's body is yet to be located. Maangi's was recovered from White Island during a dramatic recovery operation led by New Zealand Defence Force staff several days after the deadly eruption.
Maangi was later farewelled by loved ones at Kauaetangohia Marae, Cape Runaway.
More than a month on from the tragedy, Patuwai Maangi said the loss of her grandson was both cruel and hard to comprehend.
"How do you move on? That is the thing," she said.
"Tipene was my heart. He was my 'nanny's boy' ... he was my nanny's boy through and through.
"It is pretty hard when you bring him up to the best [of your ability], and push him for those leadership skills, push him through high school and through college and Wananga, and then to come to this."
Maangi had been working for White Island Tours for only two months before the tragedy.
While he enjoyed meeting and talking with tourists, his grandmother said he had taken the job "to pay the rent" and that he was looking to investigate a teaching career in 2020.
"I said to him, 'Get a real job, Tipene'. He has always been interested in teaching jobs, being in the kura, in the schools. He told me he would look into that this year. Well ... it didn't happen."
Patuwai Maangi said the family did take some relief from the fact Tipene's body had been recovered.
And they are holding out hope that the bodies of Marshall-Inman and 17-year-old Australian tourist Winona Langford would be discovered.
Patuwai Maangi said her family was not allowed to touch Tipene's body, but she had been "lucky enough to touch the bag that he was in at the mortuary".
She praised the police for their dealings with her whānau after the tragedy.
A police liaison officer had been "adopted as our uncle", while six officers had "stuck with us all the time" while they waited in Auckland for Maangi's body to be released to them.
"The family were doing puzzles with the police and singing with them. We taught them a song, and they taught us a song. They were just wonderful."
Tipene was raised for much of his life by his grandmother.
At her home she has a compiled a folder of all of his school reports and certificates. A strong student, he also completed the Spirit of Adventure youth development programme which she said had highlighted his leadership skills.
She also has a cherished selection of some of his clothing which was collected from his flat in Whakatāne after his tragic death.
"He was a [lovely young man], he still is and always will be," Tipene's grandmother said.
"From a child he was very inquisitive. He was always asking questions.
"I always said I was his rock. He would come to me for help and I would give it straight up and he took it at face value. I was always honest with him, and him with me. That was the bond we had.
"He was my everything, really."