Thai king to honour Kiwi tsunami victim
31 December 2004
By ROBYN MCLEAN
New Zealander Leone Cosens will be honoured by the King of Thailand in
a special ceremony in Bangkok tomorrow.
Mrs Cosens, who died in the Asian tsunamis on Sunday, will be cremated
today in a service at her favourite temple, Rawai Wat in Phuket,
attended by her sisters Claire Gurunathan, of Paraparaumu, and Gill
Thomas, of Christchurch.
Her ashes will be scattered in her garden in Phuket, where she has
lived for 12 years, and on the Kapiti Coast.
The animal welfare advocate had been due to arrive in New Zealand on
December 15 to spend Christmas with her sisters but cancelled at the
last minute so she could look after her American husband Tim, who had
recently had a stroke.
A Christian service will be held for Mrs Cosens after the traditional
Her contribution to animal refuge has been recognised by King Bhumibol
Adulyadej and she will be remembered by him during a service in his
private chapel in Bangkok tomorrow.
Her sisters have maintained a vigil beside her body since they arrived
in Phuket on Wednesday.
"We are overwhelmed by the impact she's had on people here," Ms Thomas,
said. "She's touched so many hearts."
Last night her brother-in-law, Gurunathan Krisnasamy, of Paraparaumu,
said the family were alerted to Sunday's unfolding tragedy when a
friend called telling them to turn on the news. "Then Leone's husband
called to tell us she was missing."
A friend put Mr Cosens - incapacitated by his stroke - in a
wheelchair and carried him to the area where she was last seen.
It is believed Mrs Cosens, who rented out a beachfront bungalow that
featured in the hit movie The Beach, had gone to help the pregnant
woman staying there, after the house was flooded when the first wave
hit. The later appearance of her dog, which never left her side, gave
the family a brief glimmer of hope that she had survived, but soon
afterward her husband found her body in scrub 200 metres from the
shore, Mr Krisnasamy said.
"The news was just devastating. We had all talked to her on Christmas
day and she'd sent over lots of presents."
She had sent her sister Claire - his wife - a mini electric fan and
told her she never knew when she might need it. She took it with her
when she left for Phuket on Tuesday.
The sisters were extremely close and kept in regular contact.
A service will be held for Mrs Cosens in Paraparaumu next week.
Meanwhile, an air force plane carrying an 11-member disaster victim
identification team left Whenuapai yesterday. It was expected to arrive
in Phuket today.
Also on board was an emergency response team including police, Defence
Force and Foreign Affairs Ministry officials.
The team would back up police and embassy staff already in Phuket
working to identify bodies, find missing Kiwis and assist people who
had lost passports.