Tweed mourns for family killed in tragic accident
THREE brightly coloured coffins stood in front of a packed congregation at Tweed Heads today as hundreds of people gathered to farewell the lives of Stephanie King and her two children.
More than 300 family, friends and dignitaries packed the halls of Elevation Church, including Australian Governor-General Peter Cosgrove, Tweed MP Geoff Provest and Tweed Mayor Katie Milne, to remember the lives of Ms King and her two children, Ella-Jane Kabealo, 11 and Jacob Kabealo, 7.
The trio died when their car plunged into the Tweed River on April 3 in the aftermath of the worst floods the shire has recorded.
Standing beside the blue, pink and purple coffins was the children's father Matthew Kabealo, and his sole-surviving daughter Chloe-May, 8, who escaped from the sinking wreckage and managed to raise the alarm.
Describing Ms King as the best mother, Mr Kabealo said family meant everything to Stephanie and she would be severely missed by all.
"Family was everything to Steph, she was put on this earth to show people how to truly give and love and ask nothing in return,” Mr Kabealo said.
"Steph came into her own when she became a parent and she was our mother of the year, every year.”
Recalling the memories of his daughter Ella-Jane, Mr Kabealo said she was "wise beyond her years.”
"She was witty and generous and such a gentle soul to all her friends everywhere,” he said.
Speaking of his only son, Mr Kabealo said Jacob was "mummy and daddy's boy.”
"I had the pleasure of delivering my own son in 2010,” Mr Kabealo said.
"Bright and bubbly, he'd ask for nothing except love and attention.”
Ms King's mother, Heather King - who flew in for the funeral from New Zealand just weeks after burying her husband - remembered her daughter as "a mum-in-a-million”.
"It's still so incredibly hard for me to realise that as well as Steph, we've lost Ella-Jane and Jacob too,” Mrs King said.
"She paid the ultimate sacrifice, she sacrificed her own life for her children. She would have never have left her children and Ella-Jane would never have left her mother and Jacob, and Chloe-May too is a hero because we would have never have known what happened otherwise.”
Pastor Rob Stuttle, who led the service, read from a note prepared by Chloe-May: "If ever I needed any help with anything, my mum would always be there to help and support me,” Chloe-May wrote.
"Ella-Jane would play games with me, make jokes and it would be heaps of fun. Little Jakie was an energetic little boy, who was almost always happy. I'd like to say they were all loved very much and we will all miss them a lot.”
Speaking to the media after the service, Pastor Stuttle said while the day was "very emotional” for everyone, he was proud of the family for sharing their loving memories with friends and family during the service.
"It was very courageous, and they really spoke from the heart about their experiences with Stephanie, Ella-Jane and Jacob,” Pastor Stuttle said.
"It was very impacting, very emotional but a really great way to send them off.”
GOVERNOR-General of Australia Peter Cosgrove is among the mourners to gather at the funeral of Stephanie King and her two children.
General Cosgrove arrived at Elevations Church at Tweed Heads in his state car a few minutes ago, one of hundreds who have gathered to pay their respects to the family of Ms King and her children who tragically died on April 3 when their car plunged into the Tweed River.
Speaking to media as he entered the grounds, Tweed MP Geoff Provest remembered Ms King as a "very lovely person”.
Mr Provest, who knew Ms King as a former employee when he was general manager at Tweed Heads Bowls Club, said it would be hard for the family to come to terms with their loss.
"With the floods we can rebuild, but that family can't rebuild,” Mr Provest said.
Describing Chloe-May, 8, the young daughter who escaped the wreckage to raise the alarm, as a "brave little girl”, Mr Provest said he was proud of how the community had pulled together in the wake of the floods.
"I'm proud to be apart of a community that is supporting Stephanie, Matt and Chloe,” he said.
A Go Fund Me page set up to help raise funds for Mr Kabealo by his work colleagues has raised $132,030 of their $150,000 target to date.
Chloe-May and her father Matthew Kabealo met NSW Governor Peter Hurley when he toured their devastated village of Tumbulgum on Monday, and took them up in his helicopter for a tour of the region.
EARLIER: HUNDREDS of people have started to gather at a funeral at Tweed Heads to honour the lives of three of their loved ones who tragically died when their car plunged into the Tweed River in the days following the floods.
The funerals for Stephanie King, 43, who died alongside her two children, Ella-Jane Kabealo, 11, and Jacob Kabealo, 7, last week will be held at Elevations Church at Tweed Heads from 2pm today.
Ms King's daughter, Chloe-May Kabealo, 8, survived the horrendous accident after she escaped the wreckage to call for help.
Chloe-May will stand alongside her father Matthew Kabealo as they farewell their loved ones.
The service will be led by Tumbulgum's Living Waters Pastor Rob Stuttle, a friend of the family who had taught scripture to the three children at Tumbulgum Public School.
Ms King will be remembered as a hero after the brave efforts she went through to try to save her children as her car skidded off Dulguigan Rd into the river at North Tumbulgum on Monday, April 3, in the days after the floods that devastated the Tweed Shire.