Parents' tearful goodbyes
They are going home without their daughters but they do so knowing they are resting in a special part of the world.
Jens Steudler and Anke Tietz, from Germany, sailed to Centre Island in Foveaux Strait on Tuesday to say goodbye to their daughters.
It is the place where last contact with the yacht Munetra was believed to have been made.
"We had some flowers we could threw into the water. We have been there," Steudler said.
"This was very good for us," Tietz said.
The grieving parents have accepted they have each lost a daughter to the southern ocean and yesterday faced the heartbreaking reality of leaving them behind.
There has been no trace of their daughters, Veronika Steudler and Lea Tietz, both 19, since they sailed out of Bluff on April 16 on the yacht Munetra.
The Munetra set sail from Bluff for Preservation Inlet in Fiordland on April 16 and was expected back in port on April 22.
Debris washed ashore in Te Waewae Bay and on the southern end of Stewart Island two weeks later.
"We know we must leave them here but we also know they are in good hands," Lea's mother Anke said hours before leaving Southland and her daughter behind.
The Steudler and Tietz families are close friends from Gorlitz, the eastern most town in the Germany, Lea and Veronika went to school together before also travelling together.
A phone call from Southland brought Jens and Anke to the southern most town in New Zealand under the most tragic of circumstances.
Their daughters and 33-year-old fellow German Andre Kinzler were lost at sea.
"When we were coming here, of course we had a little bit of hope," an emotional Steudler said.
However, they admitted tearfully that hope had faded for them. "We have to go back and realise every day again and again [our daughters are gone]," Steudler said.
During their time in Southland, Jens and Anke have helped in land-based searches and visited the areas where their daughters were last seen.
Investigator and family liaison officer Detective Sergeant John Kean said they families needed to go and look for themselves.
Anke Tietz said she and Jens had been fortunate to have had the time in Southland because in Germany the rest of the family have had to go about their everyday lives during this difficult time.
Steudler said it was easier to get a picture of what had happened and what the two girls were doing in the days before they set sail.
"We have seen what they have done in their last days. I think it is better to realise this. The rest of our family at home is very far away," he said.
"They still have some hope some wonder will happen."
Steudler and Tietz also met with Kinzler's boss Central Southland farmer Jim Cooper.
"We never met Andre so we wanted to get to know him a little bit," the pair said.
"The situation is never black and white and it was good to know the relationship between our daughters and Andre."
Both parents said their daughters would never go with someone without a "good feeling or good friendship".
Lea and Veronika loved the outdoors and told their parents days before their ill-fated journey they were enjoying the possibilities New Zealand and Southland offered.
"They especially liked Southland. They were hiking and working on farms and meeting good people," Tietz said.
Before going home, Steudler and Tietz wanted to pay tribute to everyone who helped look for their daughters especially Kean and search and rescue coordinator Sergeant Dave Kennelly.
They also wanted to thank the people of Southland who they had met.
"I think we like the people here. They are so kind and caring," Tietz said. firstname.lastname@example.org ‘Sunk like a stone', Page 3
- The Southland Times