28 May 2016

Tributes touch truck driver's widow

10:35 am on 28 May 2016

The widow of the truck driver involved in a crash in which three people died says he was her rock, her provider, protector and best friend.

On 25 February Michael Fairclough, 53, was driving a Fonterra milk tanker through Patea in South Taranaki when his truck collided with a car.

Michael Fairclough Photo: SUPPLIED

On 25 February Michael Fairclough, 53, was driving a Fonterra milk tanker through Patea in South Taranaki when his truck collided with a car.

He survived the accident but the car's occupants, Chantelle Giles and siblings John and Cherylene Bayne, died at the scene.

Four days later Michael Fairclough was found dead in his home. His death has been referred to the coroner and is not being treated as suspicious.

His widow, Chrissy, said her husband was devastated when he heard three people had been killed in the accident.

"He was very sad still, in shock I'd say, and then to be told three people had died, he just couldn't handle it. He walked around in a dazed state there for a few days.

"All I could do was tell him that I love him and that I'd be there for him, but he'd already made up his mind that he wasn't the man I'd married and things were never going to be the same."

This week she posted a message via Fonterra's Facebook page thanking those who have supported her since her husband's death - and in particular Hillary Kieft who organised farmers to leave tributes for him at their milk vats and Fi Perez who documented them in a photo album.

The couple, who were married for six years, met at a New Years Eve party in Stratford almost a decade ago.

"We smiled at one another through the crowd sort of thing and he was mine from then on. We just became an item straight away and in no time at all he was my boyfriend."

Chrissy said Michael was a joy to be around.

"He was the most loving, caring guy you could ever meet. He had a big heart, he liked people and he wasn't ashamed to show his affections. If you were a mate, he'd give you a cuddle as you were departing or meet you with a handshake that sort of thing, a real gentleman.

On 25 February Michael Fairclough, 53, was driving a Fonterra milk tanker through Patea in South Taranaki when his truck collided with a car.

Michael and Chrissy Fairclough. Photo: SUPPLIED

"He was so funny. He couldn't go past me without cuddling me or kissing me. Sometimes I was like 'hang on honey I haven't got time'.

"Life was with Michael was happy, really happy, he had his things and I had mine. I had shopping and he had his motorbike but we always came together as one."

Michael was driving for Uhlenberg haulage when the couple met and he had driven trucks in Australia, the US and Japan.

Chrissy said he enjoyed his job at Fonterra where his nickname was Happy Feet because he always had a spring in his step.

"He loved his work. They had their bad days but he never complained about his job. He loved working nights whereas I don't like working nights at all."

His passion however was his motorcycle.

"He loved his Harleys, the last one he owned it was his baby. I caught him talking to it once, telling it how gorgeous it was.

"We didn't own it when we got married but we had our wedding photos taken on that particular bike."

Now Chrissy was getting used to life without the man she thought she would grow old with.

"He was my rock, he was my provider, my protector and my best friend."

An operator at Fonterra's Collingwood Street plant in Eltham, Chrissy's not been back to work yet and admits to being scared about what the future holds.

"I was a bit zombied out there for a while, having panic attacks, just really lonely, really afraid. Mostly really afraid all the time. Afraid of what else could go wrong in my life.

"I'd lost the biggest part of my life. It happens in a flash and you don't realise you can lose something so fast."

Her daughter and grandchildren now live with Chrissy in Stratford, and she is planning a gradual return to work.

She did not blame anyone for Michael's death, and it was a reminder to reach out and tell those close to you how much you loved them.

"Keep any eye on people when they're down. Try to talk to them, hug them and tell them they are wanted."

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