Loving tributes to 9-year-old swept away on West Coast

Emily had been whitebaiting at the Hokitika River mouth with a family member on Thursday when she was swept away. Photo: Supplied
Emily had been whitebaiting at the Hokitika River mouth with a family member on Thursday when she was swept away. Photo: Supplied
Family and the dance teacher of the young Christchurch girl fatally swept out to sea while whitebaiting have posted loving social media tributes to the 9-year-old, whose body was believed found yesterday.

Emily Branje's stepfather, Neil Baxter, thanked Emily for her love and affection, thirst for knowledge and passion for life.

"You are my princess, my flutterby, my sunshine, my squirt noodle," he said.

On Facebook, Ann Jones said her niece Emily Branje would be greatly missed and would "live on in our hearts forever".

"RIP our beautiful niece and cousin," said the post, which has received dozens of condolences and heartfelt feelings for the family.

Emily was called a "wee star" by Jacqueline Jones, the owner of a Highland dance school in Christchurch where she has been a member for three years.

"My gorgeous Emily has been tragically taken far too soon and will be sadly missed by us all.

"You were a beautiful soul inside and out. You loved life and everything about it.

"Your love of dance and your smile that greeted me at every lesson will stay with me forever.

"To Emily - l love you my wee star.

"To Janine and Neil - we are all thinking of you at this very sad time. You have our love and support always," Jones said.

Police said Emily had arrived to spend the school holidays with extended family in Hokitika. She had been whitebaiting at the Hokitika River mouth with a family member on Thursday when she was swept away.

The family member, a 69-year-old man, was rescued by Emily had been swept further out and rescuers were unable to find her.

Emily's parents said through the police they were in "shock and grief" for the loss of their only child.

"This is a tragic, incomprehensible time for us and we request privacy while we come to terms with what has happened."

Police located a body believed to be Emily, near the mouth of the Grey River near Cobden on the West Coast, at about 8.30am yesterday.

While formal identification is still to be carried out, police say they believe it is Emily.

"Our thoughts are with her family at this tragic time," a spokesperson said.

"We would like to thank all the volunteers and members of the public who assisted in the search for Emily."

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