William Lee lay pinned to his own bed in his Northe Street, Napier home after a huge beam from his house fell on him.
The beam had been dislodged by a slip that had slammed into the back of his house while he was asleep at 4.30am on April 26.
It was the last day of a three-day rain storm that devastated Hawke’s Bay in 1938.
Prolonged heavy rain caused severe flooding in Gisborne and Hawke's Bay beginning on April 24. The rain fell so fast thousands of acres of farmland was quickly submerged, farm animals drowning, unable to get out of the way. Most roads suffered from slips or flooding.
Near Gisborne, Maki Morepi was drowned when he tried to cross the Waiapu River and the body of waterside worker Donald McLaren was found in the Waikanae Creek after he had fallen from a footbridge.
Picturesque Esk Valley, with its pretty church and vineyards, was the hardest hit. Esk Valley homes and farmland became buried by over 1.6 metres of silt or ruined by floodwaters and landslides. The river rose 10 metres and quickly burst its banks. Silt blanketed the whole valley floor and wrecked houses. Many residents tried to escape through it before being rescued.
High on the hillside of the Upper Esk Valley, on the early morning of April 25 - Anzac Day - Harry O’Donel Bourke and his wife Kathleen Maud watched as the waters rose. But it was not the biggest danger. Above them, a large mass of earth weakened by rain began to move. The slip barrelled through their home at about 9am. The four adults and three children in the house managed to escape to their old woolshed only to watch more earth entirely destroy their house. Cut off from the road, the seven of them huddled for three days in the woolshed before being able to get to their horses and ride out.
Nearby, France House, a boys' home in Esk Valley was also completely cut off and a troop of police were needed to rescue the boys and staff.
In the greater Hawke’s Bay county 51 bridges were destroyed. Residents at Clive had to be rescued in boats, the water being so high.
Some families were so cut off supplies were dropped to them by plane. In a cruel twist, one of the planes crashed in the Pakuratahi Valley and the injured crew had to wait 19 hours to be rescued.
Mr Lee’s fate was discovered by the milkman who, with two other men, lifted the beam off him. He was taken to hospital and found to have severely fractured ribs. His house had been moved 20 feet off its foundations by the slip.
Mr Lee, who was born in County Clare in Ireland on July 12, 1870, had been a soldier for 2 years during World War One and received the British War Medal and discharged in 1918 for no longer being physically fit due to injuries sustained during his service, most likely a sprained ankle while in Egypt. He does not appear to have ever married.
There is no mention of him again in news reports of the time other than to say the former soldier and labourer was not badly injured but he appears to have died a few months later - on August 5 - and is buried at the Park Island Cemetery aged 68.