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School mourns loss of 6-year-old

KATASHA M CCULLOUGH
Last updated 05:00 05/12/2013

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The 6-year-old who drowned in a kayaking accident was a "stunning, lovely" young girl, her school's principal says.

Campbells Bay School student Zexuan (Sharon) Cai and her father Zoujie Cai, 40, drowned when their kayak capsized in Lake Tarawera near Rotorua on December 1. Principal John McGowan says Sharon had the rest of her life ahead of her.

"She had many friends. She was a typical, ebullient 6-year-old with not a care in the world."

Mr McGowan emailed parents of Campbells Bay School to let them know about the tragedy.

"Given the magnitude of the news, and having taken advice from professional counsellors, I decided that it is best for you to share the news of the death of Sharon with your child in a way that you think is best."

The school is offering the services of a counsellor for as long as needed.

"This is a terrible time for Sharon's family. We are doing our best to be supportive to them in a way that they are comfortable with," Mr McGowan says.

Mr Cai and Sharon were on holiday with other relatives.

Sharon was wearing an adult-sized jacket which came off when she fell into the lake.

Mr Cai desperately tried to hold his daughter's head above the water for up to eight minutes after they fell out of their kayak, before they drowned in front of shocked onlookers.

Emergency services were at the scene, 300 metres from the shore, about 10 minutes after getting the call at 11am.

Mr McGowan says the family is very private and earlier this week the school was not yet aware of any funeral plans.

"We will be involved in any way the family would like us to be."

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