Much-loved paraplegic fire victim farewelled

TRIBUTE: A photo with the words 'Go well Bruce. Loved by many' was placed near the property.
TRIBUTE: A photo with the words 'Go well Bruce. Loved by many' was placed near the property.

Completing a marathon and hitch-hiking across a foreign country is not for the faint-hearted - Wanaka man Bruce Cochran did it in a wheelchair.

He lost his life last Thursday when a fire started in the roof of his Albert Town granny flat as he slept. Cochran, 53, was farewelled in Wanaka yesterday. About 200 family and friends attended a service for him at Rippon Vineyard, under a bluebird sky looking over Lake Wanaka and the town he loved.

Longtime friend Matt Gunn said "for someone who seemed so fragile at times, he also seemed indestructible".

Cochran, born in Papua New Guinea, was in a motorbike accident at the age of 17, which left him a paraplegic. However, he had simply got on with his life and his grit, determination and courage was an inspiration to others.

His sister Barbara shared stories of him visiting her in the United States before deciding to go hitch-hiking across the country and returning with "some crazy stories".

He also turned up out of the blue and completed a 42km marathon in Tahiti, the last kilometre in sand.

His "wheels were now wings", she said.

Many work friends from Cardrona Alpine Resort, where Cochran worked for more than two decades, paid their respects at the service.

Cardrona representative Scott Little said Cochran would be sadly missed at the ticket office.

"He loved the mountains. He would soak in the environment," Little said.

Friends from Whangarei also talked of his love for Bob Dylan.

"Our mate had the smile to light up the world," Gunn said.

His family thanked the Wanaka community for their love and support and for being a part of Cochran's life.

The Southland Times