Kiri is a digital journalist for bayofplentytimes.co.nz.

Family who lost everything on Rena reflect five years later

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Craig Fellows, Grace, now 11, and Cooper, now 9, still think about the day they lost all their belongings when the Rena ran aground. Photo/John Borren
Craig Fellows, Grace, now 11, and Cooper, now 9, still think about the day they lost all their belongings when the Rena ran aground. Photo/John Borren

A Halloween mask and little girl's school bag are all that remain of the Fellows family possessions that were lost overboard the Rena five years ago - and they still think about it often

The children's items washed ashore at Matakana Island in the days that followed the October 5, 2011 grounding at Astrolabe Reef.

Five years later, Craig Fellows said the family, consisting of wife Wendy, Grace, now 11, and Cooper, now 9, hadn't had the heart to throw them away.

''It's always on our mind. Maybe not daily any more but you still think about it. Every time we go to the Mount and look out at the water,'' Mr Fellows said.

Rena debris including a children's Halloween mask washed ashore at Matakana Island days after stormy weather.
Rena debris including a children's Halloween mask washed ashore at Matakana Island days after stormy weather.

''I'm not sure what we are expecting at the five-year mark. The kids still talk about it.''

The Fellows family returned to Tauranga in 2011 after living in Australia. They had planned to watch the Rena come through Tauranga Harbour, carrying all of their possessions.

Instead, they saw media footage of the Rena's wreck spewing debris and oil from the reef where it crashed.

Days later the mask and bag were found by the Bay of Plenty Times washed ashore on Matakana Island and eventually reunited with their owners.

Mr Fellows said five years later the family ''certainly hasn't forgotten'' losing everything.

''While it's not as tough and deep any more, it's certainly still there. Someone will say something and I'll be 'oh, I had one of those', or you'll go looking for something and then remember,'' he said.

''It's just one of those things unfortunately.''

The Fellows family have settled comfortably back in Tauranga, where Mr Fellows is originally from and remain philosophical.

''There's nothing we could have done. We lost control in Sydney when the movers came in and packed everything up,'' Mr Fellows said.

''It's sucks. A lot of people say 'let it go' and yeah, okay, easily said. We are not bitter about it. We were angry at the time for sure, but it happened. There's nothing we can do about it now.''

Mr Fellows, who is a scuba driver, lost his diving equipment on board Rena. Ironically, he would like to see it become a diving site.

''We should just leave it there. It's there now and it's part of the reef. Let's make something positive out of it. Let's make it a bit of an attraction, a draw card for people to visit.''

Mr Fellows was disappointed at what he described as leniency on the Filipino Rena captain, who had returned home within a year and celebrated his birthday with family on the Australian Gold Coast.

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