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Tragedy of Daniel Groshong: widow tells how he was killed at 54

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The 4X4 in which Daniel and two others were killed.

Menzi, widow of Daniel Groshong, has returned from East Timor and told SAI KUNG BUZZ what happened the day he died. Sitting outside Winerack, where there is a small shrine to Daniel, Menzi was emotional, her face dark, but in control of her tears.

On August 12 Daniel was driving a 4X4 into the Laclubar mountains to take money to coffee farmers in the hills. This was their share of profits from the Maubere coffee business. Four other people were with Daniel in the vehicle, including the Timorese Director of Tourism. He was planning a film about the coffee farming.

A landowner in the mountains had been burning off grasses. The flames weakened a big tree. Just as the five people drove by, the tree crashed to the ground, falling diagonally across the 4×4. Daniel, the Tourism Director and a Dutch lady were killed instantly. The two other people suffered serious neck injuries. Menzi said the police found nothing¬†suspicious about the accident.

In a state of shock after learning of the tragedy, Menzi flew to East Timor to be by her dead husband’s side. Two days later their children, Agos Patrick, 16, and Anna May, 12, also flew to join their mother, escorted by Jenny Leung. In Dili, a funeral was held for Daniel and he was buried in the main cemetery. This is appropriate, Menzi said, “because he really loved East Timor.” Daniel had worked as a news photographer during the Timorese war, “dodging bullets by hiding behind trees.” Feeling grateful he had survived, Daniel decided to devote himself to the country and its people. He created Hummingfish Foundation, which develops eco-tourism and green businesses supporting under-privileged people.

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An award presented to Daniel by the government for his humanitarian work in East Timor

Asked how they met, Menzi said he was photographing the Legislative Council building in Central. She was sitting in Statue Square with her sister nibbling Philippine food. The cropped-haired former US Navy Petty Officer started talking to her. They courted, married on 1 December 1999, and later produced Agos Patrick and Anna May.

Daniel was a big-hearted social worker, not a hard-headed businessman. Without him, Menzi and the children are not in a strong position financially. Their flat at Tseng Lan Shue is rented. “I don’t know if we can stay there,” Menzi said. “It is too hard to pay the rent.” Agos Patrick attends Shatin College which costs $11,300 a month, Anna May is at Tseung Kwan O’s Creative English School, $7300. Menzi is working at Clearwater Bay School as an assistant teacher during the week and at Bacco as a waitress on weekends.

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Daniel’s coffin at his funeral in Dili

Many people have come forward to help the Groshong family and honour Daniel. Leonor Daza Davis, Tim Turner and Graham Uden organised a memorial at Resurrection Church, Pak Sha Wan. At Steamers, Kee set up a collection box, so did Rose at Poets. Menzi said she has received the donations. Bacco, Winerack and other businesses around town have done the same. Stone Nullah Tavern plans a benefit auction of Daniel’s photographs and a fund-raising dinner. Daniel’s brother in the US, Judd Groshong, has set up a Gofundme site.

If you wish to support Menzi and Agos Patrick and Anna May as they try to recover from this tragedy, please donate to Menzi’s bank account. Account details: Dacuycuy Menzi P.¬† HSBC 055422059833 Any kind person willing to offer the family a rent-free flat for a period while they stabilise themselves should contact Menzi at: dacuycuy_menzi@yahoo.com

Daniel’s Hummingfish Foundation will continue, Menzi said. It has a strong board of directors and the former Timorese leader Ramos Horte is patron. “A lot of volunteers are coming forward.” Staff in Dili and in the mountains operate the coffee business and help the farmers. Maubere coffee can be found at Mushroom, Winerack, Little Cove and Casa. When you buy it you are supporting the Hummingfish Foundation, but not Menzi and the kids.

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