Auckland tornado victims remembered

00:54, Dec 08 2012
Tornado aftermath
The scene at the Hobsonville Point Secondary School construction site where three men where killed.
Tornado aftermath
A police checkpoint at the Hobsonville cordon.
Tornado aftermath
A security guard at the cordon of a Hobsonville construction site.
Tornado aftermath
The early morning clean-up in Hobsonville.
Tornado aftermath
The early morning clean-up in Hobsonville.
Tornado aftermath
The Hobsonville construction site which bore the brunt of the tornado.
Tornado Auckland
Rescue crews recover the bodies of three men the day after they were killed in a tornado.
Tornado aftermath
Debbie Booty hid in a wardrobe at her house in Wallingford Way, Hobsonville, when the tornado hit.
Tornado aftermath
Desiree Morgan, left, with daughters Izzy and Grace, and Huia Midgely receive milk supplies from across the cordon.
John Key Hobsonville
John Key arrives in Hobsonville to survey the damage caused by the tornado.
Tornado Auckland
The wrecked frame of a truck that was crushed by a concrete slab during the Hobsonville tornado.
Tornado aftermath
Phil Goff, David Cunliffe and David Shearer survey the damage in Hobsonville.
Tornado aftermath
Red Cross workers Wallingford Way in Hobsonville.
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Emergency service personnel talk to residents hit by the tornado.
Tornado aftermath
Red Cross workers prepare to meet residents affected by the tornado.
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A resident in Carnegie Cres, Hobsonville, fixes a window smashed in the tornado.
Tornado aftermath
Investigators survey the construction site where three men died in the tornado.

Tom Stowers was a salt of the earth family man, Keith Langford had his eye on a quiet retirement and Brendon Johnson had just started working on the site where he was to die.

The sudden death of the three men in yesterday's tornado has left family and friends shocked.

Stowers, 42, from Massey in West Auckland was a father of four - remembered as a caring man who worked up to six days a week to provide for his family.

Auckland thunderstorm
A motorist captured this picture on Auckland's North Shore as grey clouds hit the city.
Auckland thunderstorm
Heavy rain causes flash flooding just after midday in Auckland.
Auckland thunderstorm
Guttering fails to cope with the heavy rain in Auckland.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
The view from a city centre office, taken by a Twitter user.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Flooding begins in Glen Eden.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Dark clouds gather over Takapuna.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
The storm rages in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
The aftermath of the tornado in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Sharon White with her three year old son, and their overturned trampoline.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Emergency services arrive in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Heavy rain at the Dotcom mansion.
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Storm damage in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Storm damage in Hobsonville.
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Storm damage obstructs a road.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Storm damage in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Storm damage in Hobsonville.
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Damage to housing in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Inner Auckland is hit with rain.
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Auckland city around noon today, from www.sitecam.co.nz/auckland_webcam/.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Emergency services work to free people trapped by a concrete slab on a building site in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Destruction on Wallingford Way in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Emergency services work amongst destruction on Wallingford Way in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Emergency services work amongst destruction on Wallingford Way in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Destruction on Wallingford Way in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Destruction in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
A trampoline flung into a house in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
An emergency worker in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
The remains of a double car garage in Whenuapai.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Damage in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Road flooding in Auckland.
Auckland tornado
Fire rescue crew work to free people trapped by a concrete slab on a building site near Walingford Way in Hobsonville.
Auckland tornado
A fire rescue crew at a building site near Walingford Way in Hobsonville.

The construction worker would be up early for work and home late, and sometimes work on weekends. Before he started working on the Hobsonville High School site, he drove to Hamilton every day for work.

Neighbour Bakhtayar Zalmay said he was friendly and generous with his time.

"He was a good person, a friendly person. You hardly get such a neighbour."

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Tom Stowers
REMEMBERED: Tom Stowers.

The family, regular attendees of the Massey Samoan Congregational Church, had lived in the area for about seven years and their children, two sons and two daughters, often played at Zalmay's house.

"On the weekends he would cook a barbecue for the kids, on top of his work life," Zalmay said. 

"He would take his kids to McDonald's. He really cared about them. There are some rough families around here. But he wasn't like that, he didn't really drink. I never saw him drunk.

Brendon Johnson
REMEMBERED: Brendon Johnson.

"He was caring. At night he would park his car close to our fence to stop strangers from wandering in."

Family members gathered at their home yesterday to grieve.

Zalmay said: "His wife came over to ask us if it was alright if cars parked in the driveway because her husband had died. I was shocked, my wife was crying."

Keith Langford, 60, of Tuakau in south Auckland was a heavy load pilot, driving escort for oversized loads being transported on the roads.

Fellow transport pilot Karl Rudolph said he had worked on jobs with Langford and he was "well regarded" and "very professional".

"It's a sad loss, I only just found out," he said.

Rudolph said it was a small industry and people were "all reasonably connected".

Tom Compton, general manager of heavy haulage company CV Compton, said news of Langford's death had shaken many in the industry."Especially when you lose one of the good guys, like Keith," he said.

Compton said he had known Langford for "donkey's years". 

"He would have been wanting to retire soon. He was a good guy, very knowledgeable, real friendly guy, very loyal."

After the financial crisis hit the industry, Langford took a job as a truck driver with  George Grant Engineering.
Compton suspected his friend was the driver of the truck hit by collapsing 15m pre-fab concrete panels flung down by the tornado.

While it was known early in the day that Stowers and Johnson had died, uncertainty remained about the fate of Langford - listed as missing for much of the day.  

He leaves behind a wife and an adult son who rushed to the scene last night, standing beside Auckland Mayor Len Brown.

"At that point he didn't know that in fact he was deceased. He was the one person who hadn't been confirmed. So we were standing together at the site. I think he suspected the worst." 

He was "not in good shape".

Compton said both Langford's wife and son also worked as pilots.

Neighbours Ken Cooper and Linda Peacock said they were still in shock yesterday.  

"He was such a nice friendly guy," Cooper.

Langford had worked largely at nights, escorting oversized roads mainly up and down Auckland's Great South Road when traffic was minimal.

"He was a good man, kept to himself but he was very, very courteous. I am just gutted at the news," Peacock said.  
While Hawkins Construction was the main contractor on the site of the new Hobsonville Point Secondary School, each of those killed worked for sub contractors.

Brendon Johnson, 22, also of Massey in west Auckland had only been working as a casual labourer for Vuksich & Borich for a few weeks.

A remembrance Facebook was quickly set up by friends who left tributes.

"R.I.P to one of the truest people I have ever known," said one.

"He was an awesome person. Had a great heart and he was down for life. Will never forget your smiley face," said another.

All three were crushed by falling concrete panels.

- Reporting by Ian Steward, Steve Hopkins, Michelle Robinson and Kirsty Johnston.

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