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17th Feb 2023

Family lose 2-year-old daughter, home and livelihood all in five minutes as Cyclone Gabrielle hit New Zealand

Steve Hopkins

Ivy ‘charged through life with a beautiful smile on her face regardless of what stood in her way’

The mum of a 2-year-old girl swept away in a torrent of water during the worst storm to hit New Zealand in decades has remembered her as a bright shining light.

In the battle to survive Cyclone Gabrielle, parents Ella and Jack Collins managed to escape with daughter Imogen, 4, as the water rose to 10cm below the ceiling but lost their daughter Ivy, who was swept away in Eskdale, a rural settlement in the North Island’s Hawke’s Bay Region, reported. Ivy’s body was later found by a search and rescue team.

The death toll from the disaster currently stands at eight, with authorities reportedly setting up temporary morgues. Thousands of people have been displaced, and tens of thousands left without power.

Ella sent Stuff a tribute to her “beautiful baby girl”, describing the “insurmountable mountain” they are now dealing with after they lost everything when a wall of water took their child, home and livelihood.

“She had a great sense of humour, was very creative and determined to overcome obstacles,” Ella said of her daughter.

Ivy “charged through life with a beautiful smile on her face regardless of what stood in her way”, Collins said, and did everything with her mum and big sister, while dad worked.

“We were not wealthy at all, but we lived such rich and love-filled days.”

Ivy’s loss would “deeply” affect the family, Ella said: “Right now it seems an insurmountable mountain, but we have each other; my husband Jack, our daughter Imogen, our baby due in August and our families, friends and community. We all have each other.”

She said the tragedy has cost the family everything, “our home and everything in it”.

“With the water level 10cm from the ceiling everything has been utterly destroyed, our section and our incredible lovingly tendered edible garden… nothing is salvageable. But none of that loss compares even close to the loss of our beautiful baby girl.”

In a Facebook post on Thursday, Ella said the accident was unavoidable and Ivy died “very quickly”.

A friend of the family, Hayley McMaster, set up a Givealittle page for the Collins family on Thursday night, and by Friday morning over $174,000 (£90,625) had been donated.

“Your love for your kids is next level, even taking them out of daycare to be able to teach and love on them even more,” McMaster says on the page.

“No words can say how saddened we feel about the loss of your beautiful little 2-year-old Ivy, who was ripped apart from your family in the recent cyclone in New Zealand.”

McMaster said Ella was pregnant with her third child, due in August, and said the family would have no income as her husband’s work was now “on hold” indefinitely.

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