A family wedding has turned to family tragedy after a seven-year-old and his uncle drowned trying to rescue another whanau member.
The 22-year-old Wairoa man had been with his nephew, from Auckland, and two nieces on the beach near Whakaki Lagoon, about 20km north of Wairoa, when one of the girls was swept into the sea.
The pair went in to rescue her, but got into difficulty, and their bodies were recovered this afternoon after rescue helicopters spotted them from the air.
The two girls ran 4km back to the marae to get help.
Katie Nuku, a cousin of the pair, said she was at Iwitea marae with her aunty when the two distraught girls arrived to say that their cousin and 22-year-old uncle were missing.
"She [the aunty] could see them across the fields running back. They ran up to her crying. They were hysterical, trying to tell us what happened," Ms Nuku said.
"The four of them went down to the beach and got sucked into a rip. They didn't mean to go into the beach, they were just walking around. They got too close to the waves. It's really far from here where they went," Ms Nuku said.
Gisborne Police Sergeant Greg Lexmond said the boy and his uncle were part of a family who were gathering at the Iwitea Marae to prepare for a family wedding.
Their names will not be released until all family have been notified.
- © Fairfax NZ News