'We are grieving the loss of our beautiful daughter'

Sophia Crestani has been described as a friendly, cheerful and talented young woman. Photo: Facebook
Sophia Crestani has been described as a friendly, cheerful and talented young woman. Photo: Facebook
The family of a teenager who died at a packed Dunedin flat party have issued a statement requesting privacy while they grieve the loss of their "beautiful daughter".

Sophia Crestani's parents Bede and Elspeth this morning issued a statement through the University of Otago today saying:

"You will appreciate that it is a very difficult time for us. We are grieving the loss of our beautiful daughter and so is the community which Sophia knew and cared for.

"Many media organisations have approached us and our extended family. We ask that our privacy is respected at this very sad time and that media stop contacting our family, including extended family, and Sophia’s friends.

"Sophia’s funeral will be private and we ask that all media respects this."

Meanwhile police are working to establish a timeline of the events leading up to the death of Miss Crestani (19), who was killed as partygoers tried to leave the two-storey Dundas St flat known as "The Manor'' on Saturday night.

Miss Crestani, who was from Wellington, attended Queen Margaret College before moving to Dunedin to study mathematics and statistics at Otago University.

Principal Jayne-Ann Young said she "touched many lives'' during her time there.

"She was a cheerful, positive and personable young woman.

"It was Sophia's warm and friendly nature that made her the year 9 class prefect as well as a peer tutor to help girls navigate their way through middle school, and then later become a year 13 mentor.''

She was an "enthusiastic spirit with a creative flair'', Ms Young said.

The school's head of senior school and Miss Crestani's chaplain were both in Dunedin.

A Wellington man, who did not want to be named, said Miss Crestani was an ``accomplished gymnast and coach'' at the club his daughter attended.

"She was a lovely young lady, somewhat shy, but very much loved by the students that she coached,'' he said.

The panicked crush that resulted in Miss Crestani's death was witnessed by a Dundas St resident, who asked not to be named.

She said the party started out fairly quietly about 7pm.

By 10.30pm, people were packed in "like sardines'', but they were having a good time, she said.

There are conflicting reports about how many people were at the party.

While some witnesses suggested up to 600 people had been at the flat, the woman said it was more like 200.

Flowers left in the hedge of the house in North Dunedin where student Sophia Crestani was...
Flowers left in the hedge of the house in North Dunedin where student Sophia Crestani was tragically crushed to death. Photo: NZ Herald
People started trying to leave when police arrived, the woman said.

"People started falling down the stairs on to one another. That's when the panic set in - people thinking, 'I don't want to be the one on the floor'.''

She saw Miss Crestani fall on the stairs.

"It was awful. It was so totally packed. Once you're under, you're under.''

One of the woman's friends was a close friend of Miss Crestani. "She was distraught on the floor.''

In a social media post, Knox College master Graham Redding said Miss Crestani lived at Salmond College in 2018.

"The student community is in shock following her death, including quite a number of current Knox residents who were at the flat at the time of the tragedy,'' he posted.

Police climb the stairway of the student flat known as "The Manor". PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Police climb the stairway of the student flat known as "The Manor". PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
A neighbour who lived near "The Manor'' said she did not know the flatmates, but had been to big parties at the flat in the past.

"Out of all the parties on the street, that flat in particular is always having the biggest and the loudest ones.''

She returned home about 12.10am to find partygoers crying and in "a state of panic'' and said some were reassuring themselves aloud things would be fine.

Otago coastal area prevention manager Inspector Wil Black said police had finished a scene examination and spoken to some students who were at the party.

"We're still keen for anyone who was there, who has information that may help police form a detailed timeline of what happened, to get in touch with us.''

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said he was shocked and saddened by the incident, and urged people to allow police to investigate "without speculation and rumour''.

daisy.hudson@odt.co.nz

 

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