Wife mourns 'the best husband anyone could wish for'
A POPULAR Queenstown firefighter and bus driver has died while snorkelling off Lady Elliot Island.
Bill Metherell was holidaying with his wife Alison at Lady Elliot early last month.
After getting into trouble trying to rescue him, Alison spent a week in Bundaberg Hospital but has now returned home.
Since moving to Queenstown in 1992, Bill, 59, had been driving tour groups in the summer and skiers/snowboarders in the winter.
"He loved being in the outdoors, walking and skiing and enjoying the scenery,'' said Alison, who met Bill the year he arrived in town.
They married at the fire station six years later.
he thinks his nickname "Gov'' came from spirited debates with his workmates in which he generally thought he was right.
"I admired Bill for his intelligence, sense of humour and his dedication to the fire brigade, even though he didn't attend as much as he would have liked due to work," Alison said.
Born in Upminster, England, Bill joined the Millwall Fire Brigade in London in 1981, and in 1987 he attended the King's Cross St Pancras tube station fire that claimed 31 lives.
In 1988, he left to go travelling, arriving in Auckland in 1991 for a supposed three-week New Zealand holiday.
He joined the Queenstown volunteer brigade in 1992, and that year he was on an appliance that rolled off the Glenorchy Rd when it hit a soft patch, spinning about 15 times before landing in the lake.
"It was like going round and round in a washing machine,'' Bill said at the time.
He was instrumental in ensuring the safety of others, and co-driver Bruce Romeril later credited his colleagues, who included Bill, with saving his life.
Bill was involved in many brigade conferences and competitions and two years ago received his gold star for 25 years' service.
Chief fire officer Andrew Bary called him "respected, valued and sorely missed''.
Alison said he was "the best husband anyone could wish for''.
''Plans for retirement were a bit of land with some sheds so he world work on cars and maybe have a few animals,'' she said.
They had also planned to go to the Galapagos Islands next year to celebrate Bill's 60th birthday.