Wear a lifejacket, says drowned man's widow

TRAGIC: Latu Paasi lost her husband and a son in a boating tragedy last month.
TRAGIC: Latu Paasi lost her husband and a son in a boating tragedy last month.

A woman who lost her husband and a child in a boating tragedy last month has spoken out for the first time and called for better education around water safety to prevent more drownings.

Latu Paasi's husband So'saia - a novice boatie - and her seven-year-old son Tio died after their boat capsized in the Manukau Harbour on May 20. Three of her other children were pulled to safety.

Paasi said she no longer harbours guilt about her husband's death. She had previously held herself responsible because she had bought the boat for So'saia as a gift.

"At the moment I look back at what happened and I'm not feeling bad about myself," she said.

"I'm just trying to calm down my two oldest, it's always entering their mind what happened, but I'm just trying to tell them that's part of life."

She wanted more people to be educated about the importance of wearing life jackets on the water.

"We all knew it was a silly idea for him just to go in, but what we believe as a Christian is that it's our time, which is what I think about my husband ... it's their day to die," she said.

"You can't just turn up and be on the boat without a lifejacket. I think with Pacific Islanders, hardly any of them - back in the islands and some here in New Zealand - it's not a matter to them to wear life jackets.''

Paasi's husband and son are among the eight people who have drowned in Auckland waters since October 2011. In the past four years, 24 others have drowned.

Her comments come on the back of a WaterSafe Auckland forum last week Friday, which addressed the high drowning toll among Pacific Islanders.

Alf Filipaina, a founding member of Pasifika Injury Prevention Aukilana (PIPA) and a Manukau ward councillor, said WaterSafe was working alongside PIPA, but it was proving hard to drum the water safety message home.

"They're trying to get out there and it's just a matter of mobilising the Pacific community to get out there, whether it be by word of mouth, pamphlets and information," he said.

"But maybe they're just not listening. Maybe it's that old 'Oh, it won't happen to me'."

He said a lot of Pacific Islanders were unfamiliar with the conditions in New Zealand, which caused them to get into difficulty.

"Some of them are not used to the currents. They don't even go to the local boating club, and ask what the currents are like," he said.

"In the islands, it's calm, so you do your net fishing there, but New Zealand is a totally different environment. They don't know how dangerous our rips and undercurrents are."

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