Roof victim mourned as 'a lovely kid'

TESSA JOHNSTONE AND STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 06:57 29/07/2014
Karen Healey
'LOVELY KID': Finn O'Neill-Stevens.

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Friends and family mourning a Victoria University student who fell 10 metres to his death through a roof have described him as an energetic, bright and kind-hearted young man.

Finn O'Neill-Stevens, 18, died at Wellington Hospital on Sunday morning after falling through a skylight on the roof of a church hall on Friday night.

It appeared he and a friend had climbed on to the roof of Loaves and Fishes, a hall in Hill St attached to Wellington Cathedral of St Paul, before 11.30pm.

Detective Senior Sergeant Warwick McKee said it was "just one of those unfortunate things" and there was nothing the building owners could have done to prevent the two young men climbing the building.

"It was tragic circumstances - that young man has either sat, or leaned or squatted on a skylight and it's collapsed under his weight and he's gone through it. It was some height."

Police were not prepared to comment on whether alcohol was a factor in the fall or the climb, and were preparing a report for the coroner, who would determine which factors contributed to the death, he said.

O'Neill-Stevens was a first year arts student at Victoria University and is thought to have been a resident at Vic House on The Terrace.

"His death is a tragic accident and our thoughts and sympathies are with his friends and family," a university spokeswoman said.

"The university is offering counselling and support to our community."

Nelson College headmaster Gary O'Shea, O'Neill-Stevens' principal last year, described him as a "lovely kid with a great sense of humour".

O'Neill-Stevens had been interested in climbing and was in the school hockey team, O'Shea said.

"[He was] an all-round good guy. He played sport, was a good leader and mentor. He worked well in class and got along with students and teachers alike."

A family spokeswoman said parents Sally O'Neill and Leigh Stevens were grateful for all the love and support they were receiving from family and friends.

Friends, via Facebook, described O'Neill-Stevens as a "dear friend", kind-hearted, funny, energetic and a "bright young boy with so much to give to the world".

Geordie Gibb, who is also from Nelson and studying at Victoria University, told The Dominion Post Finn was a good friend and had always been there in one way or another while they were growing up.

"It is surreal when things like this happen to someone you have known all your life. He was a character, and loved to joke around with friends. He will be missed, and definitely never forgotten by anyone that knew him."

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Church dean Digby Wilkinson, who was quickly on the scene the night of the fall, said the skylight had been boarded over for the time being and a basic blessing had been held.

It had been as much a time to pray for the family as it was a spiritual cleansing, he said.

Wilkinson said he would talk to friends and family about possibly organising a memorial for O'Neill- Stevens at a later date.

- The Dominion Post

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