The man who survived last month’s fatal Flat Bush fire has died, said family spokeswoman, barrister Deborah Manning.
Refugee Council of New Zealand secretary Kaileshan “Kailesh” Thanabalasingham escaped the December 22 blaze along with his 11-year-old daughter and 69-year-old father-in-law but was severely burned.
The 47-year-old escaped by jumping out of the window, onto the roof and across the neighbour’s fence.
He was being kept in an induced coma at Middlemore Hospital and passed away just before 7am this morning from pneumonia.
Ms Manning told the New Zealand Herald the family are devastated and have asked for privacy.
She said family were with Mr Thanabalasingham when he died and was unsure of whether his daughter had been informed of his death.
The fire also claimed the lives of his son Bareth Kailesh (5), wife Bhamini Theiventhiran (39) and mother-in-law Umadhevi Theiventhiran (66).
Chief executive officer of Refugees as Survivors NZ (RASNZ), Dr Ann Hood, said the organisation is deeply saddened to hear of Mr Thanabalasingham’s death.
“Kailesh’s life encapsulates the spirit of what it means to be a refugee. He arrived in New Zealand with nothing. Within just a few years, he created a safe place for his family to grow up, built a very successful career and worked tirelessly to support his own community and new refugee families settling in New Zealand.
“He touched the lives of so many people with his warm and sunny nature and his compassion and determination to make a difference. New Zealand is a richer place as a result of his efforts to foster a humane and inclusive society were all people are respected and valued.”
Outreach co-ordinator of RASNZ, Diana Swarbrick, said: “We are all devastated by this news as he has shown signs of improvement in the past few days”.
She confirmed the Givealittle page, which was set up in support of Mr Thanabalasingham and has raised more than $80,000, will remain open.
All donations will now go into a trust for his daughter, who is currently being cared for by Mr Thanabalasingham’s sisters.
By: Laura Brookes