Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the APNZ News Service office in Wellington.

Lake Tarawera tragedy: Victims named

The scene of yesterday's tragedy. Photo / APN
The scene of yesterday's tragedy. Photo / APN

The father and daughter who died in Lake Tarawera, in Rotorua yesterday have been named as 40-year-old Zoujie Cai and his 6-year-old daughter Zexuan Cai from Auckland.

Mr Cai and Zexuan died ofter their one-person kayak tipped into Lake Tarawera from a yesterday morning.

Zexuan was wearing an adult-sized life jacket, but her father was not wearing one at all.

Constable Colin Fraser of Rotorua's search and rescue told Radio New Zealand the family were holidaying at the time.

"There were people on the beach who immediately went to their help, unfortunately they were too far out and by the time the help arrived it was too late.''

They were about 300-350m off the shore, Mr Fraser said.

The water was about seven or eight metres deep, with about three or four metres of weed at the bottom of it, Mr Fraser said.

Family and others on the shore did everything they could to help, he said.

"A gentleman there who immediately started swimming out, another lady managed to grab another kayak and drag it down to the beach and headed out.

"But despite their best efforts it was just too late.''

Family members and relatives who were waiting at the holiday home that overlooked the scene were too distraught to speak when approached by the Herald yesterday.

"We are very, very sad and very tired,'' said a female relative at the house.

The upturned kayak, a paddle and the the lifejacket were recovered first.

The man's body was recovered by divers about 4pm and hauled onto a coastguard vessel. Divers found the girl's body a little over an hour later.

Their bodies were taken to Rotorua Hospital for a post-mortem examination last night.

Their deaths have been referred to the Coroner.

- NZ Herald

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