The local Nepalese community is rallying to support the family of a 22-year-old Tauranga student whose body was recovered from the surf at Mount Maunganui beach. Police say Nepalese-born Pawan Kumar Khadka's body was spotted in the surf near Leisure Island by a woman walking her dog about 6.30am on Monday.
Originally from Kathmandu, Mr Khadka had been living in New Zealand for the past 18 months. A post-mortem was expected to have been completed in Hamilton yesterday. The matter had also been referred to the coroner.
Nepalese-born friend Saroj KC, who manages the Apple Tree Backpackers, said he had known Mr Khadka for about 17 months and they became firm friends soon after meeting.
"While there is no blood connection between us, Pawan was one of my brothers. I just can't get my head around him not being here anymore," he said. "Pawan was a very nice guy, an amazing, charming guy. He always had a smile on his face and was always laughing. He was a really chatty, outgoing person and always fun to be around. If you ever needed any help, Pawan would always be there for you."
Mr KC said it was likely that Mr Khadka's body would be taken back to Nepal where his parents, younger brother and little sister lived. His father owned a retail business in small city near Kathmandu and his mother was a housewife, he said.
"It's been a real shock to us and to his family, but I don't think his mother knows yet as she has been very unwell."
Bay of Plenty Nepalese Association member Manish Karki said he and other members of the local Nepalese community gathered at Tauranga Hospital on Monday to inform Pawan's family.
"We talked with his father who was really shocked and upset. We also spoke to one of Pawan's uncles who he had lived with in Nepal who also wanted to know what happened. We don't really know properly yet."
Mr Karki said he and Association members were now waiting for the post mortem results and Pawan's parents to decide what they wanted to do about the funeral arrangements. "Once we know whether his parents want to take Pawan's body back to Nepal, and whether the insurance will cover the cost, we plan to do some fundraising activities to help his parents out.
"I've known Pawan since I came to New Zealand in November and we flatted together at one stage and became close friends. He was a great guy. Everyone used to love Pawan, he was a like a little brother to me. All us Nepalese guys are very shocked and sad."
Mr Pawan, who had been boarding with a Kiwi family in Mount Maunganui, studied hospitality management at the National Technology Institute's Tauranga campus until a few months ago, and had plans to study at Tauranga's Cornell Institute of Business Technology.