Otto Lijzenga and his wife Kana Hirose were cycling through Spooners Range on Christmas Eve when a hanging branch in the middle of the track divided their paths forever.
Lijzenga went under the branch. Hirose went to the side over loose gravel and 30 minutes later was dead.
A freak accident saw the 50-year-old Blenheim woman suffer a ruptured liver after she fell and was struck in her abdomen by the bike’s handlebars.
Lijzenga desperately tried to ring for medical assistance around 10am in poor reception in the bushy terrain 40km southwest of Nelson. He also administered CPR as best he could.
“She was in a lot of pain, so I thought what can I do? I can’t leave her here but I need help at the same time. I talked to her about that, I said ‘I can’t leave you unstable’,” Lijzenga said.
“Two other cyclists turned up, and they turned up trying to make her initially comfortable but soon she went in and out of consciousness.”
They gave CPR for 30 minutes, until the rescue helicopter arrived.
Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter pilot Euan Stratford flew paramedics into the location a kilometre below the Spooners tunnel and said a locked gate prevented ambulances reaching the scene.
“It all happened reasonably quickly. Once we had flown overhead we saw people doing CPR and thought that’s not good,” Stratford said.
A paramedic was lowered down and the helicopter landed 500 metres away, but it was too late.
“In hindsight she was gone after about half an hour. We still tried CPR but she was gone really. But she was pronounced dead half an hour after [paramedics arrived],” Lijzenga said.
“Then I just sat with the body and cried really, cried for her spirit.
“I had a huge release on the spot at the moment she died, from [her] pain and from my own pain. I feel sorry for those who were there – there was a lot of pain from me.”
The 57-year-old financial adviser and his wife Hirose, a massage therapist, were on a four-day trail ride along Tasman Bay and into Spooners Range.
They were on the final day of the ride leading from Tapawera into Nelson when tragedy struck.
Lijzenga said there was nothing at all dangerous about the “well groomed trail”.
The pair had been together for six years, after they met on a hike in Auckland.
“We have a love of the outdoors, love for spirituality binds us deeply. We treasured every second we were together,” Lijzenga said.
“It is a very deep and profound love we have for each other. Walking, biking, being in the outdoors and being together. It didn’t really matter what we did as long as we were together we were happy.”
The pair each had two children from previous relationships, both of which are 24-year-old sons and 21-year-old daughters. All of them live in Auckland.
Lijzenga spent Christmas Day and the days after planning his wife’s funeral and other memorials. The couple had planned to spend Christmas together in Momorangi Bay.
“As soon as I got out of the forest I called my son and he flew in from Auckland within six hours,” Lijzenga said.
“The sense of loss of course is terrible … witnessing it was very traumatic.
“There are friends with me. Her children will turn up on the 6th of January.”
A ceremony at the couple’s home in Blenheim with all the couple’s children will be held on January 8 and Hirose will be cremated. A celebration of her life will follow on January 9.
Lijzenga will be taking two months off work and in that time he plans to go on a solitary retreat near the coast.
“I will meditate and pray, and give myself force to process what’s happened, because there’s a lot of people around the first couple of weeks [after Hirose’s death],” Lijzenga said.
“So I need solitary time for regaining internal strength again.”
He says hewill also travel to Wellington to unite with the two other cyclists who assisted in Hirose’s final moments on the Great Taste trail.
Lijzenga says he wants to “meet with their two families, and to reach out to them because they’ve been going through a traumatic experience with me”.
He also plans to plant a memorial tree for Hirose in a ceremony in Auckland with her children.
Both Lijzenga and Hirose immigrated to New Zealand more than 20 years ago, Lijzenga from the Netherlands and Hirose from Japan.
He says the “word that sums up Kana precisely would be gentleness”.
“Every person knows her as the most kind, friendliest, loving person on earth.”
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