Death of vibrant teen shocks

RACHEL ASKEW
Last updated 10:01 17/01/2014

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The Balclutha teenager who died after a boat capsized in the Catlins on Wednesday has been described as an "absolutely lovely young girl" by one of her former school principals.

Yesterday, police named the girl as 13-year-old Eluned Jane Finney.

Eluned's family did not want to comment yesterday, but Acting Sergeant Steve Griffiths said they were grateful for all the support they had received.

Eluned was on fishing trip in Surat Bay with her father and a 13-year-old male friend when the motor on their 3.5-metre runabout failed and the boat was swamped about 300 metres from shore.

All three on board were wearing lifejackets.

Her father and friend made it to shore. Eluned was found on the beach about half an hour later, but could not be revived.

Eluned, who would have celebrated her 14th birthday on January 20, had been a student at the Catlins Area School in Owaka for the past three years.

Principal Alex MacCreadie said the school and community were deeply saddened by her death.

"She was a vibrant student who enjoyed school, choir, orchestra, kapa haka and her friends. Everyone who worked with and knew her is cherishing the precious time we had," she said. "It is just devastating for everyone.

In 2012, Eluned was awarded an academic prize that recognised her participation and contribution to class activities.

The school's board of trustees chairman, Grant Bradfield, said he was thinking of the family.

The tragedy was a reminder that, while the Catlins was known for its natural beauty, it did have a dangerous side, he said.

Catlins ward councillor Hilary McNab also extended her sympathies to the Finney family.

"I'm gutted for them."

Eluned previously attended Balclutha Primary School and its principal, Paddy Ford, said she was an "an absolutely lovely young girl". "We're all very sorry for the family," he said.

In September, Eluned entered an art competition, which led to her and seven others painting their designs at the Balclutha Skate Park, with a district council report describing them as a "lasting legacy for all who will use the park".

She was also a St John cadet and featured in the Clutha Leader in 2012 after competing at the Coastal Otago district competition. Last year, she received a St John Youth community awareness award.

Owaka search and rescue members were working to recover the boat yesterday afternoon and the matter had been referred to the coroner, Mr Griffiths said.

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