Fiona Gooder and Arly, 8, were having 'a fantastic time' at
Ruakaka Beach in Northland.
Half an hour before Fiona Gooder died while trying to
save her foster daughter at a Northland beach, she sent her
husband a text saying she "was in paradise".
The 43-year-old was at Ruakaka Beach with her three foster
children and close family friends on Sunday afternoon when
her 8-year-old daughter, Arly, and another child got into
trouble in the surf.
Her husband, Bruce Martin, was in San Francisco on business
when the tragedy happened. The last he heard of his wife of
nearly 19 years was the text telling how happy they were.
"She sent me a text about half an hour before saying: "I'm in
paradise, beautiful day, big king tides and I'm having a
Last night, a devastated Mr Martin told the Herald she almost
made it back to the beach after battling the waves to save
Arly's life - but was swept away by two massive waves.
She was only metres from safety.
"They [beach-goers] turned around and Fiona was standing up,"
Mr Martin said. "They were just standing there and thought
she was OK and then two other waves came in and then, through
just exhaustion, I think, it took her under and she obviously
just took in too much water."
She had just pulled Arly to the shore on her back.
Ms Gooder, who owned a housing company with her husband, had
been at the beach with their three children - Arly, 8, and
foster sons Jarvis, 7, and Dillon, 11 - as well as best
friend Emma Thacker and her two children.
A Danish tourist had jumped in the water to help Ms Gooder.
But it was too late. When St John paramedics arrived, she was
"It was just unfortunate," Mr Martin said. "The kids had all
come out with their boogey boards and then the two girls
decided to go and just have a quick dip because they were
just about to leave and that's where they got into trouble
because they didn't have any boards."
He said Arly "didn't quite understand what happened", but
understood that her mother had died trying to save her life.
Ms Gooder's sister, Robyn Sewter, was not surprised to hear
how heroic she had been.
"She wouldn't even hesitate. She ... sprinted for her life to
get into that water to save her girl."
Mr Martin said the beach was a big part of the family's life
and they would often swim at Ruakaka.
"There's not normally rips there; it's a very safe beach. But
it was just unfortunate with the [king] tides that were there
yesterday, [the big swells were] unexpected."
Mr Martin said his wife was a huge part of the One Tree Point
community and would be sorely missed.
"She was loved in this community and, mate, she just gave her
all to everybody who was here."
Teachers and children from Ruakaka Primary School, where Mr
Martin sits on the board of trustees, held a blessing on the
beach yesterday afternoon.
The family plan to hold Ms Gooder's funeral at Waipu Cove
cemetery, overlooking the beach, on Friday.
- Ben Irwin of the New Zealand Herald