ZB ZB
Live now
Start time
Playing for
End time
Listen live
Listen to NAME OF STATION
Up next
Listen live on
ZB

‘A loving father’ - Hawke’s Bay man killed in bridge collapse ‘key provider’ for 3-year-old son

Author
Tom Dillane, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 23 Feb 2023, 10:20am

‘A loving father’ - Hawke’s Bay man killed in bridge collapse ‘key provider’ for 3-year-old son

Author
Tom Dillane, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 23 Feb 2023, 10:20am

The family of Hawke’s Bay man Brendan Miller, who was the “key financial provider” for his 3-year-old son, are seeking support to “rebuild their lives” after he was killed in Cyclone Gabrielle.

Miller was yesterday revealed by the Herald to have died on February 14 after his work truck was believed to have washed away in floodwaters after it was driven over a deceptively collapsed bridge in Crownthorpe.

It is understood Miller’s body was retrieved from the Kikowhero stream by a neighbour. Miller’s “mobile work station” truck was found a few hundred metres down from a bridge on Omapere Rd that collapsed on the morning of February 14.

Images from when the bridge gave way show a section of about five metres wide missing towards one end, but which a witness at the time said would not have been easily visible for someone driving over it in the stormy conditions.

Miller’s family yesterday confirmed his death to the Herald and have set up an online Givealittle fundraising page this morning.

The page is titled “Cyclone Recovery for Henry and his Mum” and details the situation the young family find themselves after Miller was killed just a few kilometres from where they have also been living.

“Last week the horrendous Cyclone Gabrielle violently took the life of Henry’s dad, Brendan Miller,” writes the sister of the mother of Miller’s child.

“Brendan, a loving father, an engineer and small cattle farmer with Helen in Crownthorpe, Hastings, was the key financial provider for their son Henry of 3 & 1/2 years of age.”

Brendan Miller with son Henry Miller. Brendan was found dead in his ute/utility vehicle after driving off the Omapere Bridge as the cyclone struck. Photo / Supplied

https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/cyclone-recovery-for-henry-and-his-mum-helen

Brendan Miller with son Henry Miller. Brendan was found dead in his ute/utility vehicle after driving off the Omapere Bridge as the cyclone struck. Photo / Supplied https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/cyclone-recovery-for-henry-and-his-mum-helen

Neighbours of Miller have described him as an adoring father to Henry and “a clever and ... very generous guy” who provided welding and other engineering work to his friends, neighbours and the broader Hastings, Napier area.

“While no amount of money is ever going to bring Brendan back, Henry and his mum, Helen (my youngest sister), need our help to try and rebuild their lives now,” Miller’s Givealittle says.

“Not only have they lost Brendan, but there is also a lot of cyclone damage to their small farm, and they have lost their livestock, their livelihood. Helen needs assistance to get her farm back into working order, which includes clearing the silt and debris, replacing fences and livestock. Plus, a bit of help to service the mortgage and put food on the table while they get back on their feet. Much love and thanks.”

Miller’s death

Miller’s red ute was on Wednesday seen embedded in mud and silt with its bonnet and roof smashed in and the engineer’s work equipment strewn around the now-drained riverbed.

Miller — believed to have been in his 40s — was living just over the eastern side of the Kikowhero stream. His father lives five minutes down the road.

On the collapsed Omapere Rd bridge that was yesterday being repaired by large diggers and trucks, a small memorial for Miller has been erected.

A wooden cross with “Brendan RIP” and the date on which he died “14/2/23″ hand-written on it was propped up among two jars of flowers and a bottle of Tui beer.

The exact circumstances around Miller’s death are not yet known.

However, the manager of a nearby vineyard who knew Miller provided an account of the morning of February 14 in which he first came across the collapsed bridge as the floodwaters raged.

Brendan Miller died after his truck fell off the Omapere bridge. His car was located about 1km downsteam.  Photo / George Heard

Brendan Miller died after his truck fell off the Omapere bridge. His car was located about 1km downsteam. Photo / George Heard

Cyclone Gabrielle
The Kikowhero Stream in Crownthorpe, Hastings in flood. Photo / Supplied

dakin.a@hotmail.com <dakin.a@hotmail.com>

Cyclone Gabrielle The Kikowhero Stream in Crownthorpe, Hastings in flood. Photo / Supplied [email protected] <[email protected]>

The vineyard manager said he came across the bridge around 6.15am and saw one end had collapsed.

The bridge eventually collapsed more and had floodwaters flowing over it. But at this point in the morning the vineyard owner said the bridge was “less bad, but more dangerous”.

“I stayed there to stop any traffic coming across and phoned my neighbour to phone the people on the other side to put some cones up or block the road,” he said.

“But also I phoned Brendan, because he lived very close to the bridge on the other side. So I phoned him to come and block the bridge, but it went straight to answerphone.”

The vineyard manager has phone records for calling Brendan at 6.28am and at 6.57am.

“So I was stuck at the bridge, I couldn’t go anywhere so I waited until someone on the other side of the river came ... I couldn’t leave because I didn’t want someone driving into the hole,” he said.

The manager said Miller must have driven over the bridge before 6am because after then: “It was coned and blocked off — so there’s no way he would have done it. "

After 8am that morning, the vineyard manager went to a higher elevation further along the Kikowhero stream to take photos of the flooding.

He has taken photos of the location where Miller’s work truck ended up, but it is at that point in the day it was submerged by floodwaters and could not be seen.

Brendan Miller's truck.  Photo / George Heard with inset of Brendan Miller

Brendan Miller's truck. Photo / George Heard with inset of Brendan Miller

Brendan Miller's truck.  Photo / George Heard

Brendan Miller's truck. Photo / George Heard

By 3.30pm he took another photo of the same spot and Miller’s work truck can be seen in the same spot it remains now.

It was at around this time that the authorities were notified about Miller’s welfare.

“If you got washed downstream ... this poor guy. Even if he did make the swim, there’s so many fences, so many trees, because it goes into the Ngaruroro River ... You wouldn’t survive that,” he said.

Omapere Rd resident Trudy Connor, was among several neighbours the Herald spoke to for whom Miller had done work for.

“It’s just awful,” she said.

“He was an engineer, he did a lot of work for us on the farm. He was a very generous guy. He has a wee boy. Just a good guy, always keen to help out. Really clever engineer, very clever guy.”

Miller’s funeral is this Saturday.

Police confirmed the death of someone in Crownthorpe — a suburb of Hastings — on February 19 “in circumstances related to Cyclone Gabrielle”. Police said the death was only reported the previous day.

This is however several days after authorities were notified of Miller’s possible disappearance on February 14.

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you