Perth teacher Greg Crombie died at one of his favourite places in Thailand sharing his love of community work with his students, his wife said on Monday.
Caroline Crombie, 38, is mourning the loss of her 40-year-old husband one month before she is due to give birth to their fifth child.
The Winthrop Baptist College social studies teacher and four others died after lightning struck a group of students and teachers at a waterfall near Kalasin, in Thailand’s Khon Kaen province, on Saturday.
Perth youth worker Thomas McGuinness, 19, died of his injuries in hospital.
Three Thai teenagers – aged 14, 16 and 17 – also died, two at the waterfall and one later in hospital.
Caroline Crombie said her husband, who had a doctorate in philosophy, had made the waterfall a regular feature of the student trips he took to Thailand.
“They always plan a trip out to the waterfall every year. It’s a lovely little spot apparently.
“They’ve actually been going for a few years.”
The Perth group made up of 12 Year 11 students and four adults, was on a cultural exchange trip, part of Dr Crombie’s passion to foster community development attitudes in his students.
“He cared about stuff like that,” she said.
“He’d take over a bunch of kids … it’s so educational in bringing awareness to Australian students.”
Thai police have said the group was sheltering from a thunderstorm under a tree when lighting hit.
A second bolt hit Dr Crombie.
“He was the most immediately struck,” Crombie said.
“Apparently they tried to revive him, but they lost him at the site.”
Tributes for Dr Crombie and McGuinness are flowing into separate Facebook sites for the pair.
“I’ll never forget the day he came to class wearing a sarong,” student Sarah Bond wrote.
“‘Get rid of the fluff,’ he’d say `and go for the lion’s share'”.
“i can’t believe this, i have been to Thailand twice with Dr Crombie i always thought he was invincible,” Megan Williams said.
Crombie replied to the students, telling them her husband had loved them all.
“He had such great hopes for you all, and he believed in you … he believed that our lives aren’t our own, that we’re here to be part of the Big Plan. Remember that he said `If God can use an illiterate fisherman, He can use anyone’. Don’t waste your talents,” Crombie wrote.
McGuinness was being mentored by Dr Crombie in community development work.
The youth worker was supported by the Perth-based charity group Unyball, which runs training and development programs for young people.
“Tom (my Tomato), We already miss you so much,” Isla Gammell wrote on Facebook.
“You are a truly great guy.”
“I’ll never forget that huge grin. RIP Tom – hope you’re in a better place,” wrote Aimee Morellini.
The family of Mr McGuinness flew to Thailand at the weekend and travelled with consular officials to the north-east, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.
Principal of Winthrop Baptist College Peter Burton flew to Thailand yesterday to be with the students, and the group is expected to fly back to Perth this week.