BOP river crash victim a ’legend in his own right’

Craig William Heays died after crashing into an eastern Bay of Plenty river near Toones Road, Waiotahe.

A truck driver who died after crashing into an Eastern Bay of Plenty river was a joker who would stop and chat with people whenever he could, a friend says.

Craig William Heays has left behind a teenage daughter and partner, a friend of 34 years, Malcolm Mathers says.

The 44-year-old Waihī man died after crashing off State Highway 2 and into a river in Waiotahe, near Ōpōtiki on Monday.

Craig's death had devastated residents of the small Waikato beach town and fellow truck drivers.

"He was such a likeable character, he got on well with everybody," Malcolm says. "He was a legend in his own right, I suppose.

"I'm pretty bloody heartbroken."

Craig, affectionately called "Lips", was a chatty joker who owned his own transport company, Malcolm says.

"He knew everybody. I don't think there's a trucking guy who didn't know him."

No matter where he was, Craig would be stopping to yarn and exchange jibes, says Malcolm.

A couple of Waikato Draughts made him even chattier, he says.

"Lips - that was his nickname. Because when you give him some Waikato's, you can't shut him up.

"You'd ring him in the morning and he's on the phone. Ring him at lunchtime - he's on the phone. Ring him in the afternoon - on the phone."

On Saturday, Malcolm spoke with him about "all sorts", including where Craig would be working over the next few days.

So when Malcolm saw the picture of a half-submerged vehicle on the news, he "knew straight away that was his truck".

Craig's death would leave a gaping hole in the Waihī and truck-driving community, Malcolm says.

"His sense of humour was off the scale. An absolute character and a half.

"He was a mischievous little ratbag at times. In the school days he was always up to mischief."

It was a sense of humour that served him well with the ladies at high school.

Craig knew everything there was to know about the transport industry, so dying on the job felt like a cruel twist of fate to everyone that knew him.

"It's just the meanest way to go out," says Malcolm.

"We're all going to miss him."

A funeral notice on SunLive says Craig was a beloved soulmate, adored dad and dearly loved son.

The funeral notice says Heays will be farewelled at a service held on Saturday, February 23, at the Waihī Athletic Rugby Club, followed by a burial at Waihī Cemetery. Nyika


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