Grieving mum longs to see lost son's body

By Jarrod Booker

Missing father and son were 'seadogs' who had gone muttonbirding together in Foveaux Strait for the past three years.

Odin Karetai, 6, and his father Paul Jason Fowler-Karetai, 40, both loved the sea, says Odin's mother.  Photo / Supplied
Odin Karetai, 6, and his father Paul Jason Fowler-Karetai, 40, both loved the sea, says Odin's mother. Photo / Supplied

A woman who lost her partner and 6-year-old son in the Easy Rider sinking in Foveaux Strait says she has not given up hope of their remains being brought home to her.

Whatever state her son Odin's body was in, "it would still be the most beautiful thing I have seen", Cora Maere, 30, told the Weekend Herald. "Because I will never see him again [after that]."

Speaking publicly for the first time since the sinking claimed eight lives just over two weeks ago, the mother of three other children says that if the pair's remains cannot be found, she will accept it.

Her partner, Paul Jason Fowler-Karetai, 40, always wanted to be at sea when he died, and it was okay for them to be at rest there and for Odin "to be with his father".

Ms Maere's partner of 11 years and son were passengers on the fishing vessel that sank after being hit by rogue waves on a muttonbirding trip from Bluff.

Their bodies, and those of the vessel's skipper, Rewai Karetai, and David George Fowler, 50, are still missing.

The bodies of John "Dukes" Karetai, 58, Peter "Peter-Boy" Pekamu-Bloxham, 53, Shane Topi, 29, and Boe Pikia-Gillies, 28, were recovered and they were farewelled in a service in Invercargill last week.

Dallas Reedy, 44, was the sole survivor. He spent 18 hours in the water, clinging to an emptied petrol container, before being rescued.

"I just realised a couple of days ago, it's been two weeks (since the sinking)," Ms Maere said.

"I'm still stuck in the first week. We have been trying to move on with our lives, but I can't even describe the feeling I have."

She described her partner and son as "just full-on people".

Odin, her second oldest child, was "the type of boy where he thought that he was already a man".

He had been going to the Muttonbird Islands with his father since he was three.

"He was quite the staunch little boy. He loved the water, and he was obsessed with boats. Everything was boats, boats, boats."

Mr Fowler-Karetai was father to her four kids and "my man", Ms Maere said.

"He was a real energetic sort of man. He could never stay in the one spot. He was always busy. That's why he went out fishing. He was a sea dog as well. He was just a really staunch man, and a good father - always good to his kids, and his kids loved him back hard out."

He had recently started his own lawn-mowing business.

"It was going real good, and then this drama happened."

Ms Maere felt her partner and son were in good hands with Rewai Karetai, known as Spud, in charge.

"He was always safe, very safe. There's been that many rumours getting around trying to say [the boat] was overloaded and that - that boat wasn't overloaded at all. If it was, my son wouldn't have been on there."

"We know for a fact that boat was as safe as. It was just bad luck. It was two big waves that struck them. I don't blame the sea. These fellas [on board] were seamen, they know the sea. My partner knew the sea."

Mr Fowler-Karetai's two older sons from a previous relationship, Floyd, 18, and Boysie, 15, had been a strong support to her since the sinking, Ms Maere said, as had her oldest child, Nahveah, 10.

"That's what is keeping me strong - the kids."

Ms Maere said she held no fears about the sea, and planned to travel on Foveaux Strait with her daughter this muttonbirding season.

When the season was over, a service would be held to remember her partner and son.

- NZ Herald

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