29 Mar 2016

Boy who drowned at Hunua Falls named

6:11 pm on 29 March 2016

A 13-year-old boy who drowned at Hunua Falls in Auckland has been described as a hard-working and well-liked student.

Hunua Falls

Hunua Falls Photo: 123RF

Police have named the boy as Lilatoni Vetemotu, of Pukekohe. His death yesterday follows the drowning of a 17-year-old at the same spot last week.

Police recovered the 13-year-old's body from the falls last night, after he got into trouble about 3pm.

Tuakau College principal Chris Betty said Toni had been at the falls with his family and relatives.

The student was a good guy, who had lots of friends, he said.

"He was a bit of a character at school, but he worked hard for what he got from school.

"He was part of our Pasifika group at school, his family's involved in the college with the Pasifika group who have just been to Polyfest."

Staff from the school had visited the family to offer them support, Mr Betty said.

"We're supporting them in terms of looking after them. A lot of people have gone around to visit, many of the staff have been to visit, and many of the kids over the next few days, so we'll allow that to happen and faciliate kids if they wish to go and see Toni.

"We've got counsellors in place at school. We're prepared for supporting the staff as well as the students at school and the family."

A rahui has been laid over the area, and will be lifted after a blessing there by local iwi tomorrow.

The police said the teenager's death had been referred to the coroner.

'Is there a common denominator?'

The Auckland Council has said it will look again at whether it is safe to swim at the falls.

Franklin Local Board chair Andrew Baker said it had traditionally been people who leapt into the swimming hole that died - but the last two cases had been people getting into trouble in the pool itself.

"Is there a common denominator - were they getting too close to the bottom of the falls - and is there something we could possibly do?

"You can put up as many signs as you like, you could fence it off, people would still want to swim there."

Auckland Council general manager of parks, sport and recreation Mace Ward said about 200,000 people visited the falls each year, and yesterday's drowning was the ninth since 1980.