Loving memories of a gifted young man

By Peter de Graaf

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RESPECTS: Minister Sid Kingi blesses the spot from where Heemi-nai Tairua leapt to his death, while police officers and local residents show their respects.
RESPECTS: Minister Sid Kingi blesses the spot from where Heemi-nai Tairua leapt to his death, while police officers and local residents show their respects.

Friends and team mates of the 20-year-old Kaikohe man who died while swimming at Charlie's Rock, Kerikeri, last week have paid tribute to his skills on and off the field, his cheekiness, ready smile and sense of humour.

Heemi-nai Tairua's body was found by divers on Tuesday evening. He had gone for a swim with three friends, who raised the alarm shortly after he was last seen about 2.45pm.

A police Search and Rescue team arrived at about 5.30pm, followed by members of Mr Tairua's family. They performed an emotional haka before he was taken away by hearse, while the scene was blessed by minister Sid Kingi, from nearby Skudders Beach.

Writing on Facebook, friends recalled the former Northland College student's sense of humour, cheekiness and "cheesy bright smile". His club, Otaua Valleys Rugby League Club, paid tribute to "a beautiful soul with a genuine happy heart".

"His talent on and off the field was second to none. He will be sadly missed but fondly remembered as the cheeky fullah," the club's 'Aunty' Annie Proctor and Uncle Wano wrote. His brothers Gary, Jared and George all played for the same club.

Charlie's Rock is Kerikeri's most popular freshwater swimming spot because of its deep water and scenic location, with a waterfall tumbling over a series of basalt columns. It is accessed by a short track from Waipapa Landing.

Jumping or diving from the rocks is a popular pastime, and usually regarded as safe because of the water's depth of five to eight metres, but a regular swimmer has said there are basalt columns at a much lesser depth near the edge of the hole, which could pose a danger to someone doing backflips or diving too close to the rocks.

Serious accidents are rare though, despite the large number of people who jump from the rocks in summer. In 2014 a 11-year-old girl was lucky to suffer only a suspected broken arm, cuts and bruising after losing her footing and falling four metres on to rocks.

- Northland Age

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