Invercargill truck driver Leon Harrison at Stirling Point, near Bluff, where he wants to erect a statue in memory of those lost in Foveaux Strait tragedies. Photo by Allison Rudd.
A memorial at Stirling Point, near Bluff, in memory of those
lost in Foveaux Strait tragedies would be a comfort for
grieving families and friends, two women who have lost
relatives to the sea say.
Plans for a memorial statue have received a significant boost
with a $10,000 corporate donation which was formally
announced at a recent short ceremony at Stirling Point.
Invercargill truck driver Leon Harrison launched the idea of
a memorial after losing good friend Shane Topi when Easy
Rider sank in March this year, killing eight.
Rena Fowler and her sister-in-law, Myrtle Karetai, who
attended the ceremony, were related to all those aboard.
Mrs Karetai's son Rewai was the skipper, and Mrs Fowler lost
two sons and two grandsons, among other relatives.
Mrs Fowler said a memorial would help, as it would provide a
gathering place for families and friends to remember those
who had been taken.
''Instead of looking out at sea and remembering our loved
ones, we could read their names on a memorial and think about
Those on board Easy Rider were Maori heading to islands in
the strait to collect muttonbirds.
The sea was a way of life for Maori, Mrs Fowler and Mrs
''My son first went to sea when he was 3,'' Mrs Karetai said.
Mrs Fowler said her first boat ride was when she was 2 weeks
old and was taken by her mother from Bluff, where she was
born, back to Ruapuki (Stewart Island).
''Ours was a family born to the sea, and lost to the sea,''
A memorial to remember all those drowned in Foveaux Strait
would please Mrs Karetai, she said.
''It will be lovely. My brother-in-law Eric Evans was lost
off Omaui Island in 1971 and the memorial will be for him,
Almost $12,000 has been raised through donations and small
fundraising events such as sausage sizzles before the
donation from Bupa Care Services. The company, which is
constructing a $23 million retirement village complex in
Invercargill, was ''relatively new'' to the area and wanted
to make a contribution to the people of Southland, general
manager of independent living Margaret Owens said.
Speaking before the ceremony, Mr Harrison said he was ''very
happy indeed'' about Bupa's donation, the first corporate
donation given to the fundraising committee.
''A substantial amount like this is a big boost. Now, the
statue is not just a flash in the pan, it's serious.''
In the past 14 years, 23 people have died in Foveaux Strait.
Mr Harrison wants to put the memorial at Stirling Point, the
last headland seen when heading from Bluff into the strait.
No design or site had been finalised yet and he did not know
how much the statue might cost, he said this week.
''We needed to get some money together first. Now we can
think about a detailed design.''
Foveaux Strait incidents
• March, 2012: Easy Rider capsizes off Stewart Island,
killing eight. One man is rescued.
• January, 2012: Two die after their catamaran is hit by a
large wave and sinks. Three are rescued.
• May, 2010: One man dies after the boat he is on is struck
by a large wave and overturns. Another man survives.
• May 2006: Six of the nine people aboard the Kotuku die when
the boat is caught by two large waves, capsizes and sinks.
• February, 2003: A freak wave flips a boat, tossing its four
passengers into the sea. All are rescued.
• November, 2001: One man dies and two are plucked from the
sea after a rogue wave capsizes their dinghy.
• June, 2000: Two men rescued after their fishing vessel
• June, 1999: Four passengers on board the ferry Foveaux
Express are injured after being flung to the deck by a wave.
• January, 1999: Three fishermen survive after their boat is
flipped by a 3m wave.
• August, 1998: A Southern Air Cessna runs out of fuel and
crashes into the water. The pilot and four passengers die but
five others are rescued.