Family praise rescuers at funeral

SAD LOSS: At Jan Fa'avae's funeral service her son Nathan praised the rescuers who pulled two people from her submerged car in Saltwater Creek near Port Nelson.
SAD LOSS: At Jan Fa'avae's funeral service her son Nathan praised the rescuers who pulled two people from her submerged car in Saltwater Creek near Port Nelson.

As they wept, they also gave thanks.

The children of Nelson woman Jan Fa'avae, 69, who died after her car plunged into a creek last Saturday, told those gathered at her funeral yesterday they were lucky there were not three caskets.

It was only through the courageous actions of passers-by who pulled them from the submerged car in Saltwater Creek near Port Nelson that Fa'avae's husband Filemoni and her two-year-old grandson Ali survived the horror crash.

Yesterday, the grandfather helped cradle his grandson, held by Ali's mother as they walked behind the casket as it left Annesbrook Church.

Ali's mother Zariana Fa'avae said her mother Jan had been "my rock, my go-to person, my role model and my best friend".

"Thank you for being the loving and caring person that you are, for teaching me and showing me what it takes to be a perfect mother and wife, and for your unconditional love for Ali and the rest of our family," she said. "Mum you will always be in my heart. I love you very much."

Nathan Fa'avae said his mother and father had been looking after Ali last weekend while the toddler's mum was working.

Jan Fa'avae had popped out for a quick trip to pick up fish for her cats, and for tea, and they had taken Ali to see the boats at the marina.

They were driving home when she fell unconscious at the wheel and the car ran off the road and into the creek.

Police praised the actions of Nelson rugby team manager Kyle Paki Paki, and Nelson paua diver Philip Walker, who dived into the creek to pull the family out.

Ali was flown to Starship hospital in a critical condition. He had made a "miraculous recovery".

Filemoni Fa'avae was injured and spent time in Nelson Hospital.

Nathan Fa'avae said it had been a "living nightmare" for his father, who had done everything he could to save his wife and grandson.

The simple truth was that without the "fast, courageous" actions of the rescuers, they could have had three caskets. "I know that without any doubt mum will rest in peace knowing Ali has survived."

Fa'avae was the mother of three: Nathan, Braden and Zariana.

Nathan Fa'avae is one of the world's leading adventure racers, and has claimed three world titles in the endurance sport, including captaining Team Seagate to victory in last year's world adventure racing championships in France.

He paid tribute to his mother, telling the packed church it was the hardest speech in his life he had had to prepare for.

He said a major theme in his mother's life was compassion for animals and people. She had a string of pets through her life, adopting animals that needed care - including Sparky the duck - a duckling from a family that he had run over.

He said his mother reached out to others. She was also a person who looked on things positively, who would want them to "be thankful for the time we had and not focus on the time they had lost".

Braden Fa'avae said his mother met their father when she went to Samoa in 1968 as a Volunteer Services Abroad worker.

His mother, a kindergarten teacher for more than 30 years, set up kindergartens in Samoa, and had a life-long interest in teaching and helping Nelson's Pacific community.

"How do you explain a kindy teacher that makes such lasting impressions? Well that was Jan."

He said his mother would be proud of the sort of people her children had become "honest, hard-working, sincere, respectful - I wonder why? Good on you, mum, you have served your community for 50 years.

"I will love you and miss you always."

Sunday Star Times