A journey to say goodbye

JOHN EDENS IN QUEENSTOWN
Last updated 11:59 06/12/2013
Southland Times photo
JOHN EDENS/Fairfax NZ
Eric Soubrier with Cecil Peak in the background.
Raphael Soubrier
SUPPLIED
Kayak victims Raphael Soubrier, left, and Yoann Firdion.

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The father of a young French backpacker who drowned in Lake Wakatipu is making a poignant gesture of remembrance today to remember his son and his friend.

Three years ago today Raphael Soubrier, 21, and Yoann Firdion, 24, drowned in one of the worst boating tragedies in Queenstown.

Eric Soubrier, an Air France captain, was ferried across the lake by Coastguard Queenstown to Cecil Peak today to hike the route his son and Mr Firdion traversed and lay a stone memorial plaque.

He said his wife and the family of Mr Firdion found it too hard to travel back to New Zealand.

''He was enjoying himself. I think they died happy. They were in a very good and nice time of their life.

''We wanted to make it together with [Mr Firdion's father] but he told me that it's too hard for them. It's hard for me too but I think I will be a lot better for that.

''I am very happy to make it, I'm feeling better for coming with this stone, it's a memorial. It's a big day for me but I'm not so sad.''

He is planning to hike up Cecil Peak to lay a memorial plaque that reads: Here they climbed Raphael and Yoann 6.12.10 Rest in Peace.

''Photos recovered from a camera showed the spot where the men hiked to before descending to the lake edge, where they waited because the weather was turning then, fatefully, decided to head back to Queenstown.

The pair set off in calm conditions on the morning of December 6, 2010 to paddle across the lake from Queenstown Bay to near Hidden Island and hike Cecil Peak.

Bad weather had set in when they descended after the hike, there was a 20 to 30 knot southerly and a 1-metre swell.At 10pm a commercial operator received a panicked phone call muffled by strong winds.

A rescue helicopter from Te Anau spotted the men's bodies in the water, which was 10degC, about 12.45am after a three-hour search and rescue.

An inquest highlighted the men's ill-preparedness and the dangers posed by inland waterways in New Zealand.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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