‘Absolute tragedy’: Tributes flow for West Coast community hero

Tributes have been flowing for a well-known Franz Josef man killed in a light plane crash on Thursday.

Tim Gibb was travelling alone from Franz Josef to Rangiora near Christchurch but never arrived.

A search found his aircraft had crashed near Mount Nicholson in the Southern Alps but weather conditions have prevented helicopters landing at the site.

Gibb was a long-term Franz Josef resident and business owner.

He is survived by his wife Vanessa and adult daughters Olivia and Sarah.

Family friends have set up a Givealittle page to help the family and to fund getting Sarah home from overseas. By early afternoon today it had raised more than $24,000.

Sarah has been travelling and was in Croatia when her father died.

“Many of you are probably coming to terms with the devastating news that, tragically, yesterday Tim Gibb was killed in a plane crash,” his mate wrote on the fundraising page.

“This is devastating news and a great loss to our very close-knit community. Tim Gibb was known to many.”

Gibb was a deputy fire chief in Franz Josef, dedicating almost two decades to the Fire Service and Fire and Emergency New Zealand.

“He was also the Civil Defence officer for Franz,” said the friend.

“Tim gave all of his time to everyone and anyone to ensure they always come first.

“Covid has been tough for this family who operate a small business – Across Country Quad Bikes.

“We are reaching out to the community for your support to help with immediate expenses to bring Sarah home from Croatia to support Vanessa and Olivia so they can grieve together as a family.”

Stuff reports that Gibb achieved some renown when he brought in equipment to ferry cars and people across the Waiho River when the bridge was washed away in 2019.

He ferried up to 30 cars and 100 people a day across the river using a 38-tonne dump truck.

Those who knew Gibb and his family have been paying tribute on social media.

“Words cannot describe the absolute tragedy of this accident, and what a huge hole in the Gibb family and Franz Josef and surrounding areas that Tim has left,” wrote Jamie Norton.

“I don’t think a single person on the West Coast, perhaps even the South Island … doesn’t know or hasn’t heard of Tim Gibb.

“Someone who you could always count on if you needed something, no matter the time of day or night, who would lend a hand, offer a meal or do a patch-up job to get you moving.”

Norton was “heartbroken” for Gibb’s wife and daughters.

“Wish I could somehow take the pain away but unfortunately that just isn’t possible.”

Franz Josef Glacier School also posted.

“Tim not only is an ex-student of our little school but we also had the pleasure of teaching Sarah and Olivia,” said a spokesperson.

He and Vanessa have done a lot for us over the years and Tim recently spent the afternoon with us, showing our kids all the cool things in the fire truck.

“You will be missed our friend.”

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