Drowned teen's bravery honoured

Zebedee Pua helped another swimmer before he was carried away by the sea at O'Neill Bay. Photo / Supplied
Zebedee Pua helped another swimmer before he was carried away by the sea at O'Neill Bay. Photo / Supplied

The brother of a 15-year-old boy who drowned while rescuing a young girl off Auckland's west coast said he lives in his brother's footsteps.

Teuterome Zebedee Pua jumped into the surf to help 7-year-old Holly Reichs when she got caught in a rip at O'Neill Bay on January 19, 2012.

Holly called out for help and Zebedee and his brother Raymond ran towards her. The current was too strong for Raymond, who turned back, but Zebedee pressed on and when he reached Holly, put her on his back and treaded water to prevent her from drowning.

A posthumous bravery award ceremony, held for Zebedee at Government House in Auckland today, heard that Holly's father then swam out to her and took her ashore, but an exhausted Zebedee slipped under the water.

The promising rugby player's body was found five days later.

The Royal Humane Society of New Zealand's silver medal was presented by the society's patron, Governor-General Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae to Raymond on Zebedee's behalf.

Zebedee had demonstrated exemplary bravery, paying the ultimate sacrifice and was a truly deserving recipient, Sir Mateparae said.

"Zebedee demonstrated one of the greatest of all human qualities - compassion - risking his life in order to save another.

"He didn't know the young girl crying for help, yet he didn't hesitate to go to her aid. For someone so young to put his life at risk is a testament to his character.''

Raymond described the ceremony as humbling.

"It's been two years since he passed, and really for me, I've just been waiting for this day as a way of recognising his death. I needed something, something to remember his death by.

"We're very proud of him. I'm just trying to follow in the footsteps of him.''

Raymond said he was now 15, the same age Zebedee was when he drowned. Like his brother, he too played rugby, also at center.

"So this year I'm trying my best, since this is the year that he missed out on.''

Zebedee's father Andre said his son was not only an impressive rugby player, but also held a goal of becoming a doctor. "He was a nice, quiet young man; full of life.''

Mr Pua said since Zebedee's death, there had been only two days that he hadn't made it to visit his son's grave at Waikumete Cemetery.

"He wasn't a hero, nor a coward. It's purely human instinct I believe.''

The silver medal has been bestowed 2141 times for life-risking acts of bravery, but only twice posthumously.

Holly's father Martin Reichs was last year convicted and discharged for failing to provide the necessaries of life to his daughter over the incident.

- APNZ

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