Ashburton man Michael Sheahan, who was killed on Tuesday after suffering a massive heart attack while driving home from Christchurch, was a ''gentle guy with a kind, warm, loving nature".
Michael's youngest son, Paul, said his father ''spent his life helping others".
Michael was a constable in the police force for 10 years as well as a taxi driver, and was running a small shuttle business transporting children daily from Ashburton to Christchurch.
A ''quiet soul'', his job ''gave him a purpose to carry on", Paul said.
''He loved his job - he loved the kids and to be honest the kids kept him going."
In Michael's last moments, he pulled as hard as he could to get his van off the road before it flipped over.
Paul said his father's actions were ''awesome".
''There's a lot of people that would probably have freaked if they had a heart attack while they were driving.''
Paul's last chat with his father was ''about three weeks ago'' where he gave him some relationship advice.
''He was telling me all these jokes that he had just heard and I was giving him a bit of s..t, telling him to hurry up and get himself a woman. You can't live on your own forever.''
His father, who at 68 years old was still working five days a week, replied by saying: ''No no, I'm working for my kids and that is it.''
Paul said his family wanted to say a ''huge thank you'' to the passersby who pulled Michael from his van just before it became engulfed in flames.
''As to their names yet I'm not sure, but we would like to express our huge gratitude to the officers and ambulance people and everyone that turned up to help.''
Michael is survived by his children Paul, Darren, Kevin and Angela, and 10 grandchildren.
His funeral will take place on Tuesday.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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