He should be holding Yessica, not her backpack

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 13:16 23/05/2014
Yessica and Sean

ILL-FATED TRIP: Yessica Asmin and Sean Mcnabb.

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Sean Mcnabb said goodbye to his girlfriend and asked her to forgive him.

At Queenstown Airport this morning, he held a red backpack close to his chest and wouldn't let it go. It was the first time he had been able to hold her things without crying.

The backpack belonged to his girlfriend, Yessica Asmin, known to her friends and loved ones as Yessica Yessica.

Asmin, 22, was swept into the Clinton River after she lost her footing crossing a flooded creek on the Milford Track on Monday.

The body of the Indonesian woman who had been studying in Sydney was found late on Wednesday afternoon, 48 hours after she was swept away in front of Mcnabb.

The red pack holds Asmin's possessions from what was meant to be the adventure of a lifetime for the young couple.

Mcnabb is flying home to Sydney today after saying a heartbreaking goodbye to his soulmate in an Invercargill funeral home last night .

"I spent 15 minutes saying goodbye and asked her to please forgive me," he said.

The 26-year-old from Sydney said he was only just beginning to come to terms with what had happened.

"Seeing Yessica has brought some closure and meeting her parents has helped," he said.

Asmin and Mcnabb's year-long friendship and relationship had been kept secret from her Indonesian parents because of cultural differences, he said.

"I thought they would blame me but instead they embraced me and asked me to share Yessica's life with me for the past year through the photographs she loved to take of us."

Mcnabb said Asmin had a face "you could warm to" and "a smile that put you at ease" to go with her wit and sense of humour.

She also loved the outdoors and mountains and food.

Mcnabb's parents, Anita Howie and Tony Mcnabb, were at his side at the airport. While grieving a lost "daughter", they were grateful they could take their son home alive.

"It could have so easily been more than one life so tragically lost," Howie said.

"We want to thank Sebastian [Keilholz] because without his help there could have been two bodies," Tony Mcnabb said.

German tramper Keilholz met Sean Mcnabb and Asmin on their first day on the track and joined up with them.

He helped pull Mcnabb from the icy water after he fell in.

Tony Mcnabb and Howie said no-one was to blame for what had happened.

"Nature in these isolated parts of the country are truly beautiful, but they must be visited with respect and consideration for the elements of the weather and terrain," Howie said.

"Sean is very experienced in tramping and it only takes one moment for things to become dangerous and fatal.

"The loss of Yessica is heartbreaking for our family."

The Mcnabb family hoped some lessons could be learnt from Asmin's death.

"Maybe something like a waiver form would hammer home the very real dangers on some of the tracks or more verbal warnings to go with the ones on booking forms, websites and posters," Tony Mcnabb said.

The family also wanted to thank everyone involved in the search for Asmin and especially Victim Support staff who took care of "the boys".

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Sean Mcnabb was still clutching the red backpack as he readied to board his plane back to Sydney.

He should have been walking out from the Milford Track and tucking into a Fergburger in Queenstown with the girl whose smile lit up his life.

"She loved food and she was really looking forward to eating the biggest burger they had in Queenstown," he said.

- The Southland Times

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