Shock death of young dancer

By Kathryn Powley

Mel Roberts was 'always into dancing'. Photo / Supplied
Mel Roberts was 'always into dancing'. Photo / Supplied

A young New Zealand dancer has died in a bizarre accident while working in Noumea.

Melanie Heremaia, 22 - also known as Mel Roberts, her mother's maiden name - was found dead in bed on Tuesday.

Her brother Matthew Heremaia, 25, said an autopsy concluded her heart had stopped after she fell into a deep sleep and choked on some food.

She had been working for Auckland strip club owner Brian Le Gros, who owns the White House in Auckland as well as a venue in Noumea.

"She swallowed a bit of food that had gone down her wind pipe into her lungs," Heremaia said.

The autopsy indicated antibiotics, prescribed after a root canal operation, combined with tiredness put her into a deep sleep. "She couldn't clear the food from her lungs. That just cut the oxygen off and her heart just stopped," he said.

"The coroner put it down to she was tired, and medications from her dental work made her even more tired."

One of her good friends had found her. "She was home with her workmate, but she was in her bed by herself," he said.

Heremaia and Mel's mother Angela Roberts travelled to Noumea to bring her body home. She will be buried in Waihi tomorrow.

Heremaia said his sister loved working in Noumea and planned to apply for permanent residency there.

"She would work in three-month stints because of her visa, then come back. When she first went over she was stripping in Le Cabaret. But this last time she went over there she was more in a management role, looking after the girls."

Her family knew about her job.

"We didn't mind it at all. She was always into dancing."

Mel was born in Auckland and grew up in Waihi. Le Gros said the root canal was done two days before her death.

"She was feeling ill or sick taking the medication." He said she hadn't been drinking before her death. "She'd dropped a friend off at the hotel, came back to the apartments, lay down, talked on Skype to a couple of friends, lay down to sleep. Apparently she vomited and tried to wake up and breathe but that was it."

He said Mel had strong leadership skills, which is why she was looking after the dancers in Noumea.

Her death had made him cry for the first time since he was 12 and informing her mother was a terrible moment. "It was the worst thing I've done in my life to tell her.

"It's a very big shame. She was such a fit, smart, beautiful-natured girl. She was a special person and died too young."

- Herald on Sunday

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