I'll never forget her little face - officer
Hokitika is in mourning after the death of a young boy in a goldmine pond.
Police this afternoon named the boy as nine-year-old Hokitika primary school pupil Tayne Luca Bowes.
Tayne was killed after his father's car flipped upside down in a waist-deep pond near Hokitika on the West Coast.
His school and extended members of his family and community were too distraught to speak to The Press this afternoon.
Two police officers have described their rescue of his sister from the submerged vehicle after she had spent nearly two hours in the water.
Their father had taken them to the private Adair Rd goldmine where he worked to refuel a pump that drained the mine pit.
The mine is on the same road as their home.
Police it was unclear how the vehicle came to roll into the pond or whether the father had been in it at the time.
The father began to run to his home but turned around and ran to a friend's place several kilometres away to alert emergency services about 7pm.
Sergeant Russell Glue, of Hokitika, was first to the scene and spotted the four-wheel-drive Toyota Hilux almost completely submerged in the pond, the pump still going.
He waded into the murky waist-deep water with Senior Sergeant Allyson Ealam, office in charge of West Coast police response, to check the car, expecting both children would be drowned.
''I could see something floral in the car but I couldn't see any movement,'' Ealam said.
Glue smashed the rear window with equipment from the Hokitika Volunteer Fire Brigade and they were stunned to hear the girl call out for help.
''We didn't expect to hear that cry,'' Ealam said.
''I thought we were hearing things. Fortunately we weren't, and it was all on.''
The girl was gasping and gulping for air, blue with cold after being submerged for so long, but she had managed to breathe in a small air pocket at the vehicle's rear, which was above water.
Glue pulled her out and quickly passed her to Ealam before continuing to search for her brother, desperately hoping he would follow her out, but he didn't.
''I'll never forget her little face,'' Ealam said as tears welled in her eyes.
''It was like she had just woken up. She was shaking, wet and gasping.''
The girl clung to them as she was passed to another colleague ''who had taken a leaping jump down the bank''.
The girl managed to smile at that police officer and said ''thank you'' to him before she was bundled into the ambulance.
Her father returned to the scene a few minutes later and accompanied her to hospital.
Smashing the window probably nudged the girl awake, Ealam said.
The girl was taken to Grey Base Hospital last night suffering from hypothermia but was discharged this morning.
Tayne's body was removed from the vehicle last night once it was lifted out of the pond, and his mother spent time with her son at the scene.
West Coast area commander Inspector John Canning said the family were devastated at the loss of their son but elated with their daughter's survival.
''That wasn't a happy ending,'' he said.
Police were still investigating the crash.
The two children were pupils at Hokitika Primary School.
It was the second fatal car crash on the West Coast yesterday.
An investigator from Blenheim attended a crash at Ngahere at 4.30am.
The investigator had just returned to his motel after dealing with that crash when he was called to the mining tragedy, Canning said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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