It was a mark of the depth of affection and level of respect held for the man that more than 700 people attended Richard Ebbett’s funeral on Saturday, October 7.

Ebbett’s body was found a week earlier after he fell into Mt Ruapehu’s crater lake and died during an expedition on Whakapapa skifield.

The 39-year-old outdoor enthusiast and bike suspension tuner, known by all as “Richie”, was farewelled at a ceremony at Palmerston North’s Awapuni Racecourse.

One of the people in attendance was 19-year-old Jessie King, whose life Ebbett had saved 16 years ago, in 2001.

King attended the funeral with her siblings and partner to pay her respects to the man who saved her life.

King said Ebbett had been there just at the right time, when she was involved in an accident in 2001.

Ebbett had been travelling home to Palmerston North in the back of his brother Maurice’s van after a motocross event in Kawhia in 2001.

A tractor towing a trailer full of children – King, her two brothers and a cousin – crashed into a ditch. The driver, King’s father George Philip Tooman, 48, was killed,

Ebbett freed two of the children trapped by the trailer, and saved a third who was lying face down in a drain, drowning.

King and her family have never been sure whether it was she or her brother Julian who had landed in the drain, but one thing that was always clear was that Ebbett had saved their lives that day.

She never got to say thank you to her hero. However, she wanted to attend his funeral to pay her respects, she said.

I would have given him a big hug and said thank you. Thank you for being there at the right time.”

The theme of Ebbett as a hero kept resurfacing throughout the three-hour ceremony as various friends paid tribute to him.

Long-time dirt bike racer Solis Norton, who described Ebbett as his “true hero”, said he was a man with a big heart, who was steadfast, positive, and as “honest as a day is long”.

Ebbett’s humour, love for food, motocross, the outdoors and his sense of adventure were interwoven in the speeches made by family and friends at the packed ceremony.

Friend Scotty Brooker said Ebbett was an enthusiastic guy with a larger than life attitude. Ebbett loved his family, friends, adored his son, and would be missed by all, Brooker said.

“You went out on top of the world, who else can say that? – full Richie style,” he said.

Ebbett’s father Harvey spoke at the funeral and said it was possible his son had fainted and fallen into the crater lake.

He thanked the people involved in the search party who scaled the mountain to search for Ebbett after he was reported missing on the Friday.

Ebbett, a farm boy from Pahiatua, attended Palmerston North Boys’ High School and later went on to form the Moto SR (Moto Suspension Research) company, based in Taupo.

He was well known and respected in the motocross, enduro and cross-country community.

© Photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com

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