A neighbour of the man who died after a fall on Moutohora (Whale Island) last week has described him as a lovely man.

Lionel Nowell died in hospital aged 73, after being airlifted from Moutohora last Thursday. He was on the island as part of a group of people who had booked with White Island Tours.

The neighbour, who asked that her name not be used, said Nowell was a great neighbour.

"We lived next to he and his wife Elaine for about three years," she said. "They were both lovely people who married late in life and adored each other."


The neighbour said Elaine died in November last year due to complications with a medical condition.

"While Lionel was devastated, he was also very positive. He told us that he had seven great years with her.

"He had also joined a few clubs, he walked daily, and was planning on taking up bowls.

"Lionel was a great gardener, he was always bringing us vegetables, and mowing lawns for other people."

She said Nowell was from originally from Gisborne and Elaine was from Hamilton.

"They used to joke that Whakatāne was middle ground for both of them.

"I believe Lionel has two daughters, one who lives in Nelson and the other who spends time between Waiheke Island and an overseas address."

She said she had been shocked to hear of his fall and subsequent death.


"He will definitely be missed by all his neighbours."

WorkSafe and the Department of Conservation, which administered Moutohora Island and its tracks, were both conducting investigations into the incident.

White Island Tours were co-operating fully with both investigations, and would participate in any coronial inquiry, if and when that happened.

The Department of Conservation had suspended all tour operations on Moutohora while the investigations were ongoing.