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Family still in disbelief after skydiving tragedy

Monday 24 Mar 2014 5:04 p.m.

Friends and family of a New Zealand couple who died in a skydiving accident have been gathering in Auckland to remember them.

Joseph King and his fiancé, Rahuia Hohua, were killed with three others in Australia as their plane was trying to take off.

Mr King had moved to Australia where he lived with Ms Hohua, but his heart remained in New Zealand. Today his whanau shared memories of a family man with a ready smile.

The father-of-three was a man of courage. The skydiving trip terrified him, but he was determined to conquer his greatest fear. He never got the chance.

Witnesses reported hearing two loud bangs before the plane set off. Then it nosedived on takeoff, bursting into flames and killing all five on board – the pilot, two dive instructors, Mr King and Ms Hohua.

Between them, the couple had five children. Two were comforted by relatives outside the hangar after the crash. Later, gathered in the dark, the family stopped the funeral van as it left the airfield to say goodbye.

"You expect to hear her still and you still feel her… it's nuts. You still don't believe it," says Ms Hohua's brother, Inia Raiana Hohua.

Investigators say it will take at least three weeks before they have anything to report, but the plane was so badly damaged it will be hard to assess if there was a mechanical failure.

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