Family, friends and colleagues have paid tribute to “legendary” Queenstown rafting guide Moana-Roa Chief Haare, who died yesterday.

‘Chief’, 62, collapsed and was unable to be resuscitated after his raft overturned on Shotover River.

He had been rafting for three decades.

Former Queenstown Rafting General Manager Tim Barke said the best way he could describe what had happened would be to use the Maori saying “The mighty tōtara has fallen”.

The company’s operations manager Guido Leek added:  “Chief was just a legend — you can’t get more experienced than he was — especially on that river.

“He was someone doing something he loved – he loved that river – he rafted year-round.

‘Chief’ started rafting in the eighties and has been an integral member of Queenstown Rafting since 1996.

Head Rafting Guide Michel Lepage, says Chief was so well known and loved in the rafting community that tributes have been coming in from all over the world, including Peru, Nepal and Japan.

“You never saw Chief grumpy or having a bad day he was always happy,” Mr Lepage said.

“He kept on rafting time after time, day after day, year after year.

“When we’d go through a busy period he’d be the first to offer to come in at the weekend.

“He was always going out of his way for people. He added half an hour on to his day just picking guides up and dropping them off – that’s just Chief.”

He said they would get customers coming into the officer just to meet him.

“He was such a legend in the industry.”

A statement from the company said he had navigated his raft through what is called the ‘Toilet’ rapid when it overturned.

“This is not an unusual occurrence when rafting on the Shotover River and there is always a dedicated safety kayak guide preceding, ready to assist the passengers who floated to the shore,” it reads.

Chief maneuvered the raft to the riverbank and had just spoken to one of the guides, when he collapsed and was found unresponsive.

“Despite immediate medical intervention by two highly trained guides, including use of the defibrillator carried on each trip, Chief was unable to be resuscitated.”

He had been one of three guides accompanying 11 passengers on two rafts on a trip between Deep Creek, in Skippers Canyon, and Arthurs Point.

Operations have been suspended until further notice and a special tribute is planned.

Dozens of friends and colleagues paid tribute on social media.

In an emotional post, his daughter said the family would miss him “every day”.

“Today we lost our handsome dad doing what he loves, on the Shotover River as a guide for Queenstown Rafting.”

He was a much loved dad, partner, grandfather and friend, the post read.

“We will miss your guitar playing and long hair. You will be in heaven playing your guitar with the greats from your records since you were a young boy. We miss you already so much.”

He dominated the pool tables at Harry’s bar in Queenstown.

Mr Leek said:  “He didn’t drink, didn’t smoke and he was amazing at pool – we used to joke and call him the pool shark because he was just such a brilliant player.

“He was also a fantastic musician. Chief would sit in the corner and play for us at lunch sometimes. We’d all just listen – he’d have that guitar humming.”

His bio on the company website said his claim to fame is: “With over 20 years and thousands of trips under my belt, I’m the longest standing river guide for Queenstown Rafting.”

Dallas Kane, now living in Salt Lake City, Utah, US, said on Facebook: “Sad day for the river world. Thanks for all you taught me Chief. A true river legend that I will always remember. Cheers CHIEF.”

Josh James, also on Facebook, describe him as “the man, the legend”.

He “died doing what he loved. RIP Bro.”

Ketter Voss added: “See you see you Chief.

“Back bone of QT Rafting, adored by customers and friend to trainees. What a hole he will leave. RIP.”

Police have not yet officially released his name.

The company will carry out its own investigation.

The incident was being handled by the police and Maritime New Zealand, and WorkSafe New Zealand had been informed.

Queenstown Rafting, which merged last year with two other companies under the Go Orange brand, claims to be the country’s largest whitewater rafting operator.