Wife finds husband after pool fall

NEVER APART: Dirkje and husband Maarten Schaap, who fell to his death while trimming bushes.
NEVER APART: Dirkje and husband Maarten Schaap, who fell to his death while trimming bushes.

A woman held her husband and watched him slipping away after he fell four metres from a ladder into an empty pool.

Maarten Schaap, 74, had been trimming bushes around the swimming pool at his Te Oka Bay property on Banks Peninsula last Wednesday afternoon when the freak accident happened. He suffered head injuries and died later that day at Christchurch Hospital.

His wife, Dirkje Schaap, 71, was so traumatised she suffered amnesia and struggled to remember anything from that day.

Granddaughter Tabitha Schaap, 32, said the close-knit family was still coming to terms with the tragic death.

"We all sort of feel like it's a bad nightmare at the moment," she said.

"It's been very, very hard for her [Dirkje]. They've known each other for 60 years. They've never been apart."

Tabitha Schaap understood her grandmother had been inside making a cup of tea when the accident happened.

She made the discovery after her husband, who she fondly called "Maart", did not respond to calls to come inside for his drink.

Schaap said the family dog, which belonged to her parents who lived next door, was next to him trying to "wake him", despite normally hating the pool. Her grandmother stayed by his side for about half an hour until the nearest emergency services; an ambulance and fire brigade, arrived from Little River.

"It probably felt like 10 hours [for her]," she said.

But Schaap said it was lucky the ambulance was in Little River that day or the wait would have been even longer.

Her grandfather was taken by the Westpac rescue helicopter to Christchurch Hospital's Emergency Department, where he never regained consciousness.

Schaap said the family were "eternally" grateful to the Westpac rescue helicopter paramedics and hospital staff who gave them the chance to say goodbye to him before he died.

She said it was not known what had caused him to fall that day.

"We're not sure, possibly he was trying to come down and tripped."

However, an autopsy report had ruled out that it was due to a medical event, Schaap said.

She said she would always remember her grandfather as a devoted family man.

The father-of-three, who was born in Holland and came to New Zealand 54 years ago for a better life, loved taking photos of his children, grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, she said.

He had even set up a Facebook account so he could continue looking at photos of his family when he recently visited relatives in Europe, Schaap said.

She described her grandfather as a "sprightly" and "active" man who loved gardening.

"He'd never stop, 10 minutes for a cup of tea then he'd be back at it. Sometimes we might get quarter of an hour, if we were lucky." She said he was also "jack of all trades", who loved getting his hands dirty.

His funeral will be held tomorrow.

The Press