Southland community mourns the loss of youth leader Sam Lavea

The Southland community is in mourning after it lost one of its Samoan sons, Sootagaoaiga (Sam) Lavea.
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The Southland community is in mourning after it lost one of its Samoan sons, Sootagaoaiga (Sam) Lavea.

He will be remembered as a man who was always there for others, a sports lover and an active member of the community.

Sootagaoaiga (Sam) Lavea was killed on Wednesday when the car he was driving crashed into a large power pole on State Highway 1, near Invercargill.

Lavea was returning home from work in Gore when crash happened.

At 23, Lavea was more active in his community than most.

He was a church member, sports player and youth leader.

Lavea's partner Luisa Kuresa said he was involved in everything.

He loved his rugby and played for Star Rugby Club.

He played league for Cooks and was a part of Volleyball Southland as both a player and a coach.

Lavea was the sort of person who was always there no matter who you were, and always made people feel welcome, Kuresa said.

His father, Reverend Taoa Lavea, and mother, Tioata, moved the family to Invercargill from Auckland in 2012, when his father became the minister at the Samoan Methodist Church.

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The family moved every seven years as part of their involvement in the church, Kuresa said.

Lavea has one sister, Serafina, and three brothers, Junior, Tupu and Uilealea.

"He was very shy when he came, but he definitely grew into the Southland spirit."

Lavea loved his Samoan culture and his passion was to bring it down here, Kuresa said.

He volunteered every year for Polyfest and taught the Southland Boys' High School Polyfest group.

"He really got involved. He was a big part of the community."

He loved the youth and the music, Kuresa said.

A talented musician, Lavea was the church piano player.

"Every Saturday he would teach us a song for the Sunday service."

Lavea was a leader with the Kiwi Can programme, run by the Graeme Dingle Foundation.

Kiwi Can is a values and life skills programme, designed for primary and intermediate school students.

Lavea would spend Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday working in Gore, Thursdays he would work in Bluff and every second Friday he would go to Halfmoon Bay School on Stewart Island, Kuresa said.

He also worked at the Lorneville freezing works and was training at Yunca.

The biggest thing Kuresa would miss about Lavea was his smile.

"His smile and his cheeky grin. He was the sort of person that you feel so comfortable around."

Graeme Dingle Foundation Southland deputy chair Dean Addie said Lavea's death was a tragedy that had affected many people in the community.

"Sam was a fine young man with a wide network of family, friends and colleagues, who will miss him terribly. Our priority right now is to support all these people."

Volleyball Southland performance and development coach Alexandro Mariano said the news of the Lavea's death came as a shock to everyone in the volleyball community and his thoughts were with the family.

"Volleyball was a big part of Sam's life, as well as his younger brothers, Tupu and Uilealea."

Lavea coached the Southland U15 boy's volleyball team, the Central Southland College senior A boy's team and was part of the Southland Men's team as a player.

Lavea had time for everyone no matter the time or day, Mariano said.

"He had a lot to offer as a player and as a coach and will be missed very much."

 - Stuff

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