A promising New Zealand wheelchair basketball player has died just hours after arriving home from competing in a dream international tournament in Thailand.
Teremoana Tuakana's grieving young family is still in shock after the much-loved and devoted father of two died from a mystery infection in Middlemore Hospital on Monday morning.
The Herald understands at least one other teammate has also been admitted to hospital. It is unclear whether the two illnesses are linked.
Tuakana's partner of eight years Kalina Harry has told the Herald how she sat by his bedside and watched the 34-year-old take his last breath.
The keen basketballer, known as Tere, arrived back on Sunday afternoon after a week away playing for the New Zealand Rollerblacks in a tri-nations tournament against South Africa and Thailand.
Tuakana arrived home from the airport at 3pm and wanted to rest after the long flight.
But later that evening, when Harry checked on him she realised he had a fever and called for an ambulance to take them to hospital.
"I didn't realise this infection was really bad. I thought he would just get checked and go home, but it was a different story."
He died the next morning as she sat by his hospital bed.
Doctors told Harry he had caught a bad infection and it was attacking most of his organs.
Tuakana had been in good health when Harry waved him off just one week earlier and she believes he must have got the infection in Thailand.
She spoke to Tuakana several times via messenger while he was away and he said he had been having a great time.
The first she learnt that he was feeling ill and had been taking paracetamol for it was when a teammate got in touch a few days earlier.
The couple had two children together - son Kevin, 6 and daughter Tevina, 3 - who were struggling to come to terms with their dad's death.
"Our son is the one really hurting bad because he's really close to his father, ever since he was little," Harry said.
"Just today he had a little breakdown. He was telling me how he can't believe his father is dead."
In tears, he also told his mum how he would miss playing outdoor activities with his dad who wouldn't be around to see him finish school.
Harry said Tuakana, who worked in IT at Altus Enterprises in Papatoetoe, was always cheerful and didn't let being in a wheelchair stop him doing anything.
"One thing I will say was he was very stubborn."
She believes it was his stubbornness and determination that led to him being selected in the New Zealand basketball wheelchair team earlier this year after picking up the sport in 2012.
"Once he officially accomplished his goal of getting chosen it just brightened up his moment."
Tuakana became wheelchair-bound after a motorbike accident in the Cook Islands in 2004 left him paralysed from his spine down.
Tuakana's friends had been in touch with Harry since his death, sharing how they would miss the devout Christian's cheekiness and outgoing personality.
Basketball New Zealand spokesman Joe Wallace said Wheelchair Basketball NZ had confirmed that a player had died since the team returned from the tournament in Thailand.
Wheelchair Basketball NZ had asked for privacy while the organisation grieved for their teammate.
The South African Wheelchair Basketball team has also paid tribute to Tuakana on social media, saying it had formed a close bond with the Kiwi team in the past week.
"We are deeply saddened to hear this news and send our heartfelt condolences to Teremoana's family and friends, as well as all of our brothers in the RollerBlacks team," the post said.
A Police media spokesperson confirmed a man in his 30s had died at Middlemore Hospital on Monday, and his death had been referred to the Coroner.
A memorial service is to be held at PGM Church in Ponsonby on Sunday night, followed by a funeral on Monday.