A 7-year-old boy and his 22-year-old uncle who drowned in
northern Hawke's Bay yesterday have been named by police.
They were Sage Wi Smith, a Wairoa farmer and his nephew,
Kustom Michael Soljah Blandford, of Auckland.
Their deaths have been referred to the coroner.
The pair died when they went into the sea to help a younger
female relative who had been swept in by a wave as they
walked along the foreshore north of Wairoa.
The girl made it to shore but Kustom and Mr Blandford were
Their bodies were recovered later yesterday afternoon.
Sergeant Aubrey Ormond of Wairoa police said Kustom and Mr
Blandford were part of a family group gathering at Iwitea
Marae to prepare for a wedding on Saturday.
One of the victims was also the son of a man whose unveiling
"The community will be in grief, it's a huge shock, "Mr
A friend of the family said Kustom's mother was on her way to
Wairoa from Auckland yesterday after being told of the
tragedy at work.
He said a number of family members from Australia had also
made their way to Hawke's Bay for the wedding.
The man said sea conditions were not "bad" yesterday, but
that stretch of beach was "always dangerous".
"There was an on-shore wind, a bit of a surge, a bit of a
swell. The beaches here are quite sharp and deep."
Police had to cross private land to gain access to the beach.
Wairoa Mayor Craig Little said it was an "absolute tragedy".
"The community will be supporting each other in this hard
time. It's just horrible and tragic for everyone involved."
Gisborne-based Eastland Rescue Helicopter pilot and base
manager Neil Dodds said last night that family members of the
two at the scene were "fairly distressed to say the least".
"It wasn't that flash down there," he said. "A difficult one
to put into words."
Mr Dodds was unsure of the circumstances leading up to the
deaths. He said there had been "mild surf" but locals said
"it might have been a bit of a rip that got hold of them".
- Corey Charlton and Sam Hurley of Hawke's Bay Today