Rugby player drowned after seizure

Last updated 12:00 12/10/2012

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LATEST: A Fijian rugby player who drowned off the Tararua coast had been warned by his father not to swim in case he had a seizure.

Eroni Ravanga Guanavou, 22, disappeared, in the water off Akitio Beach on April 9 while swimming with friends.

His body has not been found.

Coroner Chris Devonport has ruled Mr Guanavou likely suffered an epileptic seizure before he drowned.

A Fijian national, Mr Guanavou was in New Zealand playing club rugby with Puketoi Rugby Club in Pongaroa.

Mr Guanavou suffered a seizure while swimming in a swimming pool in Sri Lanka in November last year, the coroner said.

Mr Guanavou had been taking part in a seven's rugby tournament there when he was admitted to hospital where he was diagnosed with epilepsy.

Mr Devonport said Mr Gaunaveu's father had warned him not to go into water in case he had another seizure.

On the day he disappeared he was at Akitio with friends Thomas Duxfield, Rupeni Tamanai and Epeli Rayagayaga.

The weather was fine and sunny, the coroner said.

''The sea was described as rough with a lot of white water and cold, with an incoming tide.''

Four days previously Mr Guanavou suffered a head injury while playing rugby at Eketahuna, but continued playing for the remaining 15 minutes of the game.

About 4pm on October 9 the group decided to go for a swim.

Mr Guanavou, who was wearing shorts, was noticed by Mr Tamanai to have his arms crossed and appeared cold.

Mr Guanavou was seen to tilt forward and fall gently into the water.

Mr Tamanai thought Mr Guanavou was playing around and expected him to stand up, Mr Devonport said.

''A wave washed over Mr Guanavou. He was observed approximately 5m away and face down in the water with only his shoulder exposed, but shaking as if having a fit.

''Another wave washed over  Guanavou and he was not seen again.''

An extensive search was launched after the three friends raised the alarm.

Volunteers from the rugby club, fire service and the wider community combed the shore while commercial fishermen searched out on the water.

Two helicopters were used for an aerial search until 7.30pm that evening.

Further searches were carried out in the following days with the Police Dive Squad and Police Search and Rescue taking part.

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- Manawatu Standard

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