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Oamaru school pays tribute to 'larger than life character' after Easter crash kills student

An Easter crash has stripped a "larger than life character" from one Oamaru school.

Roko Watesoni Tawatatau Tuapati. Source: Givealittle

St Kevin's College principal Paul Olsen told 1 NEWS the school was remembering Roko Watesoni Tawatatau Tuapati, known as Watson, as a "hero" after he tragically died on April 20, after spending time at hospital.

He had just turned 18.

"The whole community is struggling with this tragedy as Watson was such a larger than life character who had friends throughout all levels of the school," Olsen said.

"The staff loved him and the students saw him as a hero."

Tuapati died in a single-vehicle crash on Taipo Road, near Teschemakers in North Otago April 2, police confirmed.

He was the sole occupant of the vehicle.

Watson was a Year 13 prefect who lived in the hostel for two years and was part of the 1st XV, basketball and volleyball teams and also excelled at athletics.

"Watson was a wonderful student. He was a first class leader, he was reliable, hard working and incredibly respectful," Olsen said.

"The community has worked together to ensure that everything we have done has been in respect for Watson and his family, the only thing we can do for each other is try to look after one another in the way he would have done."

Another staff member at the school has set up a Givealittle page to support Watson's whānau. Donations have now surpassed $14,000.

"I think everyone in Oamaru can imagine how terrible it would be to be separated by distance and a pandemic if this happened to one of their family members and it’s a natural thing to want to help," Olsen said.

"Watson’s family have had to incur a lot of extra expense in supporting him over the last few weeks and this will help now and into the future as his ashes are taken home."

Olsen also said the school's counsellor, hostel and school staff had been available to support students impacted by the tragedy throughout the past three weeks. He said they had also coordinated with outside counselling agencies where needed. 

"We have also provided a faith-based response through our chapel and we have done everything to show respect to our student by treating them like the young adults they are by being honest with them about what has happened," he added.