A well-known south Auckland horse trainer who drowned saving children from treacherous west coast surf is being hailed a hero for his selfless actions.
Revell Douglas lost his life on Wednesday as he took to the water at Karioitahi Beach, south of Auckland when a number of children he was with got into trouble in the sea.
Despite efforts of first responders, Douglas died at the scene.
As stunned friends and colleagues come to terms with the tragedy, his devastated family this morning released a statement detailing how a beach outing ended up claiming the 46-year-old sportsman's life.
"Revell, his partner Lou and seven children had been at the beach where Revell had been exercising his horses.
"The children had been in the water, when some of them got into difficulty. Revell and eldest son Lockie, along with Lou, helped save the children but tragically Revell lost his life whilst doing so.
"He will be sorely missed by all," the family said.
Those who lived and worked alongside the champion horse trainer and keen rugby player have been left stunned by the death.
Tributes posted on Facebook are describing his final moments as heroic.
Our sincere condolences to family and friends of Revell Douglas and also his work colleagues at Hygain," Show Circuit magazine said on its Facebook page.
"He drowned yesterday a hero, whilst saving one if his children.
"RIP Revell, you were one terrific guy who was well respected by all in our community."
"Our mate Revell Douglas, a champion bloke, horseman, friend and father.
Hygain won't be the same. Rev went out, and will always be a hero," Adam Campbell posted.
The grieving family said Douglas was a passionate horseman who had been in partnership with his father Don Douglas. Over the years, the pair had trained a number of successful trotters.
Douglas worked in the racing and equine industry most of his life, including time as racing manager of Alexandra Park and general manager of Pinjarra Trotting Club in western Australia where he and his family lived for three years.
More recently, he worked for Hygain and Mitavite Horse feeds as the New Zealand territory manager.
On Friday, fellow harness trainer Jeremy Young dedicated a win at the Cambridge Raceway in memory of his late friend.
"It's a wee bit of an emotional win for me. This one is for a guy I met at the stables when I first started at Puke, Revell Douglas. Champion guy. It was a great privilege to win that race and I'll miss you," he said on Facebook.
Douglas, who played representative rugby for Manawatū and in the United Kingdom, was married to Julia for 14 years and had three sons: Lockie 13, Hamish, 11 and Liam, 9.
Along with extensive equine interests Douglas was active in Counties rugby circles and trained junior teams at the Karaka Rugby club for the past seven years.
In a post on their Facebook page, the Karaka Junior Rugby committee and community extended their deepest condolences and sincerest thoughts to the family and friends saying "one of our own club members and team coaches who tragically lost his life through drowning while saving the life of one of his children at Karioitahi Beach on Wednesday morning".
The Pinjarra Harness Racing Club this week said it was deeply saddened to learn of the tragedy.
"During his time as manager, Revell's passion for Harness Racing and for PHRC was evident. His persistence and drive to improve the club lead to some impressive changes. Including increased funding for the Pavilion, making it what it is today," a post read.
The National Equestrian Centre also paid tribute posting the horseman drowned trying to save one of his children.
"Revell drowned trying to save one of his children earlier today. A great bloke with extensive knowledge of all things horse."
The drowning is one of six people to lose their lives in the first six days of 2021.
Four-year-old Mystique Genuine Pairama from Upper Hutt died at Lake Rotokawau on Monday and Zion Brown of New Pymouth died in Lake Arapuni on Tuesday.
Hours after Douglas lost his life, a person drowned at Two Mile Bay in Lake Taupo.