Help for family after boy's beach death

Food, donations and offers of help are pouring in to support the family of a boy killed after a hole he was digging in the sand collapsed and suffocated him.

Paris Mohio Remus, 7, died on the Pataua South beach known as Frogtown, 35km north east of Whangarei, about 1.30pm on Sunday.

Beachgoers, including members of his family, tried to resuscitate him, as did emergency services workers who arrived at the beach, but he could not be saved.

As news of the death spread, the community at Whangarei Heads responded by donating food and money to his family.

Janet Hill, who works at Parua Bay School and knows the family, said she had started collecting the donations.

"There has been a fabulous response from the community out here. I have been inundated with phonecalls from people who want to help," she said.

It was through a Facebook group called "Whangarei Heads People"that the offers came flooding in. "People I didn't even know were asking how they could help."

Paris was not a student at Parua Bay School.

A relative said the freak accident had shaken the family.

A police iwi liaison officer said a local kaumatua had blessed the scene on Sunday afternoon after the death. Paris' body will be at Ngunguru Marae from today ahead of his tangi.

Paris' sister Hine wrote in a funeral notice: "Paris will never fall apart because he's always in my heart."

The Northland tragedy bought back memories of a near-fatal incident at Karekare Beach, northwest of Auckland, in October 2012. Alia Bland and Shalema Wanden-Hannay were on the beach when they came across a teenager trapped underneath sand.

"We tried to pull his legs and it was like pulling on concrete. His legs were kicking and we were screaming for others to help."

They estimated the teenager had tunnelled about 2m into the side of the sand dune before the sand collapsed on him.

"It was really scary. We were calling to people at the carpark to help but many just stopped and watched - I think they thought we were joking around." After about six minutes, the women and the teenager's older sister managed to get the youngster out and, miraculously, he came to.

Mrs Wanden-Hannay of the Karekare Surf Lifesaving Club said more awareness was needed of the dangers of digging in the sand.

"I believe they should be part of school-based beach education ... and I'd like to see sand collapses on beach signage containing other safety messages, such as falling rocks, large waves and rips."

Safety tips in sand

* Never dig large holes or tunnels on the beach.

* Teach children the dangers.

* Always fill holes or tunnels you may come across on the beach.

* Recognise that people respond differently in emergencies, so give clear instructions when delegating.

- Vaimoana Tapaleao of the New Zealand Herald and Northern Advocate staff

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