Ontario man swept away in New Zealand landslide remembered

A 25-year-old man on the "trip of a lifetime" with his girlfriend in New Zealand was remembered this weekend, though his body has not yet been found after a landslide swept away the couple's rental van in September.

Connor Hayes, 25, and girlfriend Joanna Lam, 24, were on "trip of a lifetime"

A funeral for Connor Hayes, 25, was held in west Ottawa even though his body hasn't been found. 2:51

A 25-year-old Ottawa man believed to be dead after a New Zealand landslide was remembered Saturday as an avid athlete and aspiring police officer.

Connor Hayes and his 24-year-old girlfriend Joanna Lam were travelling together in New Zealand before Lam was scheduled to start a job as a medical imaging specialist with a health board on the country's South Island.

Mike Hayes, dressed in his son's high school hockey jersey, decided to hold a memorial service even though Connor's body has not been found. (CBC)

The couple were last seen on Sept. 10. New Zealand Police then discovered pieces of the couple's rented camper van two weeks later in a gorge on the Hasst River. 

Days later, police discovered Lam's body. They haven't been able to locate Hayes.

Hayes' father Mike recently travelled to New Zealand to help in the search for his son, but efforts were unsuccessful. He then set up a stone memorial by the ocean for Hayes and Lam during his trip.

Father dressed in son's hockey jersey

“We were overcome by the number of people who we'd never met who sobbed when they told us how sorry they were that Connor and Jo had died,” Hayes said at the Saturday memorial, held at Ottawa’s Holy Spirit Parish.

Mike Hayes, dressed in his son’s high school hockey jersey, gathered with many friends and family members to remember the aspiring police officer, who was due to start training with the RCMP in late September. 

Police search teams, including a specialist search dog and heat-seeking helicopter, worked hard to find the missing couple. Only Lam's body has been found. (New Zealand Police)

Hayes also said the funeral was less about saying goodbye and more about celebrating his son.

“It was really nice to try and celebrate Connor’s life,” said Vince Delaney. 

“Everybody (was) sharing stories, all the positive experiences they've had with him, lots of good memories.”

New Zealand police have said they stopped actively searching for Hayes.


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