Taupo drowning 'a tragic waste of life'

Friends watch as mate's body pulled out

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 15:54 21/02/2014
taupo drowning
FAIRFAX NZ

A popular Taupo swimming spot has claimed the life of a 17-year-old teenager on Thursday. Another teenager died in the same place in similar circumstances almost a year ago.

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Friends watched as their mate's body was recovered from the Waikato River just hours after they had been frolicking in pristine waters on a hot summer's day.

Police have named him as Cole Justice Williams of Feilding. 

In two weeks, it will be exactly a year since teenager David Clark drowned in almost identical circumstances at the same spot near Taupo's Riverside Park.

Police were called about 4.15pm yesterday and found the teenager's body lying on the riverbed after a half-hour search involving harbourmaster and Coastguard.

The police national dive squad arrived at 9.45pm.

The teenager was from out of town and had been swimming with a group of up to four friends. They didn't leave the water's edge until their friend's body was pulled out at 11pm.

"It's a beautiful location, but it's a big body of swiftly moving water at times and it can catch people unawares," Sergeant Shane McNally, of the Taupo police, said.

Upstream hangs a rope where children stand on the bank and swing out onto "this beautiful deep water" then swim back to shore.

"Hundreds" of people jumped off there yesterday afternoon.

"The boys were swimming, talking, drifting down the river and this young man went too far into the flow," McNally said.

"[He] went under, came back up, yelled out something, disappeared a couple more times and he was last seen by people on shore and his friend in the water.

"His body was located, a short distance from where he was last seen, on the bed of the river."

McNally described the death as "a tragic waste of life" while doing something every Kiwi did - cooling off in beautiful cool water on a hot summer's day with friends.

"But people need to be critically aware that swift water can have tragic consequences," McNally said.

"I don't know how many incidents I've been involved in at the same area - heaps."

March 7, 2013, was a Thursday too.

That afternoon Turangi's Clark, 15, was jumping off a high cliff, used by generations of youths over the years, with four friends.

On his second jump his friends watched as he leapt into the river. He was swept downstream in the current before he disappeared under the surface.

Police dive squad members recovered his body from a seven-metre-deep hole late that night.

McNally said the boy who drowned yesterday was healthy and fit.

"It's the same with any river - swift-moving water is dangerous and people need to be aware of their own abilities in that water.

"People can rapidly get into trouble and a tragedy can result. It's knowing your own ability around rivers and swift moving water."

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