Tributes flow for big, loving man

BIG PERSONALITY: Leighton Muir has been described as a ‘‘happy, hard-working young man who always had a great big, beaming smile’’.
BIG PERSONALITY: Leighton Muir has been described as a ‘‘happy, hard-working young man who always had a great big, beaming smile’’.

A "catastrophic gear failure" is being blamed for the death of Nelson fisherman Leighton Muir on the Talley's tuna boat Captain M J Souza while fishing in the Pacific.

The 27 year-old, who is remembered first by everyone for his big smile and adventurous nature, was killed aboard the boat on Sunday as it was operating in the Kiribati Islands region.

An investigation has begun. Talley's Group general manager Tony Hazlett said today details surrounding the incident were unclear.

"More will be known over the coming days but it would appear from the information at hand the fatality was the result of a major and catastrophic gear failure during routine purse seine operations," Hazlett said.

The Capt M J Souza is a "super seiner", which catches tuna in New Zealand waters and outside in the western and central Pacific Ocean. It spends time at Port Nelson every year.

Maritime New Zealand [MNZ] and the Transport Accident Investigation Commission have sent investigators to the ship, which pulled into Apia in Samoa yesterday. Hazlett said the vessel was met by a Talley's representative. Officials from MNZ began the inquiry soon after.

He said there would be full investigations into all aspects of the accident to establish what happened and the company would comment further once that was known.

"At this stage our first priority and thoughts are with Leighton's family and crew mates on board who are understandably devastated. We are doing everything possible to assist them in this difficult time," Hazlett said.

Muir's family are now gathering in Nelson from overseas and from around the country, in preparation for the return of his body.

Hazlett said that would happen as soon as possible, once released by the Samoan coroner.

Leighton's sister Krystle Muir, who has arrived from Australia, declined to comment on what happened.

"We're just trying to deal with this on our own," she said.

In a Facebook post she said "my little brother has been taken from us all far too early in his life, but man what a life he had, he lived every moment of it and passed doing something he loved."

She said the loving words of many had been "amazing and heartwarming", and that it was good to know he was such a well loved man by so many.

"That big personality of yours sure had an effect on so many lives but especially your family," she said.

"You dreamed big and I know you would have made all your dreams come true. You worked so hard to make them happen."

Muir's Facebook page revealed a man with a big love for adventure, who had fished oceans with Talley's from the deep south to the tropics.

Family friend Paul Rosanowski said Muir's death was "absolutely tragic". His family had known him for several years, and enjoyed the way he breezed in and out of their home when he was in port.

Rosanowski described him as "tall, big guy with a huge smile".

"He was a happy, hard-working young man who always had a great big, beaming smile.

"He was always looking for the next adventure. He was a lovely, grounded and caring young man," Rosanowski said.

Muir, who would have turned 28 in October, was a pupil at Waimea College. Principal Larry Ching said staff remembered him as being a "really nice boy" who was likeable and smiley, and always full of energy. He was also remembered as a "good, reliable hard-working guy".

Muir worked for a time for Nelson firm Emac Security, whose owner Henry Pene said Muir's death was a sad loss for so many. "He was a great guy. He really was one of those people that was fun-loving and outgoing. It's hard to put into words - he was always quick with a joke, helpful and friendly," Pene said.

The Nelson Mail