Family, friends mourn 'angel'

DEADLY DRIVE: New Plymouth woman Heather Joy Thompson (known as Joy) was killed in March while travelling on State Highway 3 near Pio Pio.
DEADLY DRIVE: New Plymouth woman Heather Joy Thompson (known as Joy) was killed in March while travelling on State Highway 3 near Pio Pio.

Joy Thompson has been remembered as a woman who was was "everybody's mum or nanny".

The 74-year-old New Plymouth woman was on her way to a school reunion when she was killed by a freak rockfall on State Highway 3.

Despite the efforts of passing motorists to keep her alive, Thompson died at the scene, just outside of Pio Pio on Friday.

Her younger sister, who was driving the car, escaped with minor injuries.

Last night about 50 of Thompson's friends and members of her extended family gathered at the New Plymouth Spiritualist Church to share their memories.

She had two biological children, Glenn Thompson and Karen Ngatai, but she had also been a foster mum for much of her life.

Richard Waiwiri met her when he was 15, and he said Thompson had estimated she had cared for more than 300 children over her lifetime, including him.

His real mum died when he was three years old but he said he had never felt the pain of losing a parent until Friday when Thompson was tragically killed.

"I can't remember what it was like when I was little, so I didn't know the pain, but now I do. She touched a lot of people's hearts. She had a lot of mana," he said.

Anna McDermott, 50, said Thompson had been her mother since she was 17.

"She was my mother, my teacher, my friend. She was my everything. She was a part of my life every single day," she said.

Thompson, who was a spiritual healer, had spent many years teaching Dawn Campbell how to use her natural abilities.

Although she was a hard teacher who didn't suffer fools, Campbell said she was wise beyond her years. "She taught people to believe in themselves."

Thompson was a life member of the New Plymouth Spiritualist Church and was described by many as an angel who had earned her wings.

The freak accident happened on Friday morning when the sisters were travelling north from New Plymouth.

A witness described the rockfall as happening very suddenly, and said the rock remnants that remained on the road were as large as a dinner table.

Questions have now been raised about the ongoing safety of the crumbling cliff face. The New Zealand Transport Agency had geotechnical assessors on-site after the accident to assess the state of the rock face and they would return today to undertake risk assessments, NZTA spokesman Harry Wilson said.

"This will help to identify what we need to do to ensure the long term stability of this cliff face. Some options could be rock scaling or vegetation removal," he said.

State Highway 3 between Mahoenui and Pio Pio re-opened to a single lane on Saturday.

A concrete barrier has been installed to provide protection for road users.

Speed restrictions are in place and drivers are being asked to take extra care.

Taranaki Daily News