Saturday, 28 Nov 2020

Lake Taupō deaths: ‘Lover of life’ Helen Smith farewelled

Maria Hardy was worried about her best friend Helen Smith last Friday.

She phoned her at 4.30am asking if she was okay.

Later that day Hardy learned their 39-year friendship was over. Smith had been found dead, on the shore of Lake Taupō, with her partner Trevor Wiringi.

A passerby had found them submerged in water just after 7am.

“I can’t believe it,” Hardy, told the Rotorua Daily Post Weekend.

Hypothermia and alcohol were reported to be factors in the Rotorua couple’s deaths, which have been referred to the coroner. Police ruled out foul play this week after post mortem examinations.

On Wednesday, close friends and family farewelled 49-year-old Smith at a private funeral.

Hardy, who lives in Ngākuru, just outside of Rotorua, said Smith “never ever, ever gave up”.

“She always knew she had me and we would spend hours, all night on the phone.”

The best friends shared a love of horses and Smith, a top showjumper, had hopes of returning to jockey training.

“In one of our last conversations, she said to me ‘I’ll help you get to Horse of the Year and you help me be a jockey again’. So we had a couple of plans in place but it obviously was not to be.”

Smith and her daughter visited Hardy recently but she wasn’t home, so they sent a video.

“I listen every day to that video just to hear her voice,” Hardy said.

“She was a lover of life, loved her daughters and an animal lover … The world lost a good person … I miss her so much.”

Hardy said Wednesday’s funeral was private, and “a beautiful send-off for a beautiful woman friend, daughter, mother and aunty”.

“Heaven has gained an angel.”

Hardy said she had only met Wiringi, 50, once.

Smith had moved to Rotorua from Wellington.

One of Smith’s Wellington friends, Lovey Tauarua, said she was “so sad” to hear of the deaths.

“I have missed her [Smith] so much and had not heard from her in a while.”

Tauarua said Smith’s whānau would be in her prayers.

“She was a lovely lady.”

Earlier this week, NZME was told Smith had spent her life among horses and was very talented.

A Taupō man told NZME last week he saw revellers partying in the hot pools on the shore of Lake Taupō 12 hours before the two bodies were found.

He said he walked past two women and a man at the popular Hot Water Beach spot.

“I think at that stage they were intoxicated,” he said.

Taupō Mayor David Trewavas said to know two people had lost their lives was a tragedy.

“To wake up on a beautiful crystal-clear day, the lake is so pristine, and for someone to come across two people dead is very, very unfortunate,” he told NZME.

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