'Our light and joy': Family's tribute to girl who died in Fiordland creek

Tegan Chen was on holiday with her family when she fell into Marian Creek in Fiordland last month.
Tegan Chen was on holiday with her family when she fell into Marian Creek in Fiordland last month.
A 10-year-old girl who died after being swept down a rapid creek in Fiordland last month was her family’s “light and joy” and known for her ability to “light up the room wherever she went”.

Tegan Ariel Chen was on holiday with her family from New South Wales when she slipped into Marian Creek near Hollyford River in the Fiordland National Park on January 25.

Te Anau Sergeant Tod Hollebon earlier said Tegan had slipped from a rock near a viewing platform and was instantly swept out of sight of her desperate rescuers. She was found a short time later several hundred metres downstream, and was unable to be revived.

“Quite a lot of emergency services attended; everyone played their part in trying to rescue and resuscitate the wee girl. Unfortunately, she couldn’t be saved,” he said.

Ray Horrell, of Fiordland Walks, said Marian Creek was a “very steep, constant flow, like a cascade”.

“It cascades all the way from Lake Marian. You could call it a waterfall ... a waterfall on its back.”

Since the incident, Tegan’s loved ones have posted a series of video tributes to a dedicated YouTube channel, sharing photo compilations of the young girl.

“Tegan was our absolute light and joy,” said a post on a tribute site set up for her.

“All those who had the privilege of spending time with her knew that she would light up the room wherever she went.”

The site includes video of Chen dancing and playing with a big smile plastered across her face.

The posts on YouTube show photos and clips of Tegan and her family in Milford Sound, which they had been visiting before the accident happened.

In her funeral service, which was also shared online, Tegan’s mother, Deb Fung, said nothing could prepare Tegan’s loved ones for facing the fear and sorrow of the day.

“Thank you for all being here, bringing closure on a life that was so young, precious, and full.”

Tegan Chen (centre) with her family before her death. Supplied photo
Tegan Chen (centre) with her family before her death. Supplied photo
She also thanked family who had flown over to New Zealand hours after Tegan’s death to provide comfort.

“You provided the support we needed to go through the darkest part of the valley of shadow and death.”

Since the accident, they had been “filled with a conviction about God’s kingdom that we could never have had without Tegan going before us”.

“Caring, carefree, daring, diligent, spirited, and strong-willed, courageous and kind. Tegan, you were all these things and more, and you bring all of who you were in this life to the gates of heaven.”

She quoted bible verse Psalm 127:3-5, referencing children as arrows being a blessing to those whose quiver is full of them.

“Tegan, you are an arrow in our quiver, shot with a head of fire across your ten and a half years on Earth, now arcing into heaven where you are blazing a trail there for all of us. See you soon.”

Tegan’s father, Adrian Chen, also spoke at the funeral, telling stories of his daughter’s bravery, compassion, and generosity.

Laughing, he told of one occasion where he and Fung had been arguing behind closed doors when Tegan came into the room and started singing a song she had written for them about why they should not argue.

“Reading some of her songs these last few days, I still marvel at the wisdom of her words, surely not the words of a 10-year-old,” he said.

He described Tegan as being driven by desire to show people she loved them, and said she had a “soft, gentle heart” and “wonderful relationship with God”.

“She was a special girl. One who touched my heart the moment she was born, til the moment she left this Earth. I will miss you forever my baby girl.

“As I come to let you go today, I realise you were never mine to hold on to, but you were lent to me, a treasure to help shape. But even more so, for you to shape me into a better man, a better father, a better husband, a better son, a better friend. You already have and you will continue to. I hope that I do you proud, baby girl.”