Death prompts emergency flight to Pukapuka

Friday December 27, 2013 Written by Published in Return to Pukapuka
Death prompts emergency flight to Pukapuka

The Pukapuka Airport opened yesterday for an emergency landing to bring home the body of Billy Baniwai Tiro, aged 48.

As a foreman carpenter, Billy Tiro had spent the last eight months in Rarotonga to complete the Pukapuka Hostel accommodation unit.

His hard labour along with that of many others saw the successful completion and opening of the unit on December 6. He and his five year-old daughter, Hillary Tiro, were awaiting transport to return home to Pukapuka and his wife Manongi Tiro when he died suddenly of a heart attack at the Pukapuka Hostel on December 22.

During the memorial service on Christmas Day at St Joseph’s Catholic Church, the Bishop said: “Billy Tiro had the same admirable carpentry profession as Jesus and as Joseph.”

As a carpenter, Billy worked on almost all of the building and infrastructure projects in Pukapuka and Nassau through Cook Islands Infrastructure. He also worked on many building projects in Rarotonga and across the Pa Enua including in the last year the Aitutaki Football Association headquarters and the Pukapuka Hostel accommodation unit. Upon returning to Pukapuka, he had been slated to build the new hospital, nursing accommodation, University of Pukapuka building and to teach carpentry to the younger boys. He had a gift for carpentry and for hard work.

As the president of the Pukapuka Cook Islands Football Association, Billy Tiro organised the annual football tournaments and travelled across the globe as a CIFA coach and manager. Billy Tiro had been a star football player along with his deceased twin brother Ikurangi Tiro, who died 10 years ago from cancer at age 38. Billy’s son, Twin Tiro, also plays professionally for CIFA.

During the family service held on Christmas day, CIFA president Lee Harmon talked about the loss of both twins as devoted football players and as best friends.

“This is a shock,” he said during the family service through tears. “I love and miss you, Billy.”

Billy Tiro also worked as the Pukapuka Air Raro agent and pilots stayed with him and his wife, nurse practitioner Manongi Tiro, while in Pukapuka. While the airport had been closed due to heavy rain, a group of men in Pukapuka took off from the Christmas festivities to roll and repack the runway with old machinery in order to make the needed emergency landing to bring Billy’s body home.

“All the men are supposed to be fishing for Christmas,” said his wife Manongi Tiro, “but everyone in Pukapuka is coming together to make sure Billy comes home.”

Billy Tiro always enjoyed a good party and had excellent swing dancing skills. He always had a loud laugh and big grin to share. He was also one of the few men in Pukapuka to work the taro patch for his wife and always found time for planting, gardening and other projects. He spent his time hard at work, playing soccer, looking after his daughter Hilary, dancing or laughing.

He is survived by his wife Manongi Tiro, his beautiful five children, two older brothers, and everyone who loves and misses his vitality, love and commitment to his family and to Wale.

Family donations and inquiries will be accepted through Manongi Tiro, Ken Tiro or the Pukapuka Hostel. During the memorial service, the Bishop at St Joseph’s also reminded everyone; “Christmas and God’s love is not only for the living but also for the dead.”

Related article(s):
Pukapuka runway repaired for funeral

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