‘Stolen too soon’:Family pay tribute to freediver who died during Catlins trip with ‘favourite person’

The family of a man who died while freediving off the southeastern coast of the South Island say he was “stolen” from them “too soon” but died doing what he loved.

Jake Bridson, 23 of Heriot, West Otago died on Sunday died while diving near Owaka Heads, a popular Catlins snorkelling spot.

In a death notice published today his family said he was “stolen from us too soon, doing what he loved”.

Bridson was hailed a hero in 2015 after keeping a potentially disastrous scrub fire at bay.

A family member understood to be his mother posted online today about his sudden death.

“Yesterday we lost our precious friend, brother, and the best son we could ever wish for,” she wrote.

“We take solace that Jake was doing what he loved with the person he loved the most.”

Bridson has been returned to his family and his friends have been invited to say goodbye and have “one final beer” before his funeral on Saturday.

The service will be a celebration of life and his family have asked that no one wears black.

“Jake of all the special gifts in life however great or small – to have you as our son Jake was the greatest gift of all,” his mother wrote.

Police were called to near Owaka Heads, south of Balclutha, about midday after Bridson became separated from others in his party on Sunday.

He was found about 1.40pm.

He was not able to be revived and was pronounced dead at the scene.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time,” said a police spokesperson.

It is understood Bridson was diving with a family member.

His death has been referred to the Coroner.

In 2015 Bridson was working as farmhand near Clarks Junction in Otago when a fire broke out, the Otago Daily Times reported.

He and farm stock manager Jason Tisdall and farmer Jim Stevenson loaded a spray tank on to a ute and used water from it to keep the fire contained.

Speaking after the fire was extinguished, a soot-dusted and tired Mr Bridson said he was alerted to the fire by seeing the flames and the startled technician.

“I just seen it and I was like ‘oh no’,” the 17-year-old said.

“He [the technician] was head in his hands.

“We lifted up the spray tank on to the truck and drove down there and were fighting it with a spray tank.

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