By Te Karere


The first known drowning in the Awahou River in Rotorua has prompted a rāhui on the area.


Ngamaru Raerino of Ngāti Rangiwewehi says the person who drowned was Don Tuatara and he was a local, “He uri nō konei, nō Ngāti Rangiwewehi, nō Ngāti Pure. Tōna ingoa ko Don Tuatara, koirā tēnei tangata he uri nō konei, no tēnei wāhi, nō tēnei takiwā.”


The man was found at the mouth of the Awahou River and Raerino also adds that he possibly went from his house for a swim, suffered a seizure and was found by a local girl, “I haere mai tērā pea ki te kaukau, ka kēkeke, ka pore atu ki roto i te wai. I reira ka ngongohia ake ētahi wai. Ka kitea e tētahi o ngā tamāhine o konei.


A spokesperson for the police says Don Tuatara was found lying in the water, and all efforts at revival failed.


The death of Tuatara adds to the tally of water-related accidents for the summer that continues to rise.


Water Safety NZ’s Jonty Mills says, “The summer period running from Christmas Eve through to now have seen five preventable drownings. I always say that one preventable drowning is one drowning too many.”


These five known drownings include a 38-year-old woman and a 50-year-old man who both drowned while trying to save children who had been caught by the tides.


Mills also adds, “I acknowledge that it is natural human instinct to want to help someone should they get into trouble, particularly if it's a child. But it's really important to understand the risks and actually know your own limits. Sadly, in most situations, it's the rescuer who ends up drowning whereas those who are in trouble survive.”


Meanwhile, a two-day ban has been placed on Te Awahou River until the restrictions surrounding a death are cleared, and Raerino says he will be remembered, “Ka noho mahara tonu mātou i konei tēnei tangata e hīkoi ana mō wēnei rā ki konei mātou whakatū ai i te āhuatanga whakamahara ki tēnei tangata.”


Water Safety NZ advises swimmers, “Be aware of the situation, they need to understand their own limits, they need to be aware of the risks, understand the dangers and knowing local conditions is really important.”