The family of Private Michael Ross, who died when he fell into a lake near Waiouru last Tuesday, have been offered a personalised casket for his funeral.

The 29-year-old from Kaitaia died when he fell overboard from an inflatable boat while on a training exercise on Lake Moawhango.

His body was found on Tuesday this week after an extensive search by Navy and police divers.

It was returned to his family on Wednesday following a post mortem examination.


Dying Art director Ross Hall said they wanted to offer Private Ross's whanau a personalised casket to commemorate his heritage and whakapapa.

Designer Inia Taylor spent two days working with the Ross family to design what they thought he would be happy with.

The design is a tattoo style along the coffin sides often used on the legs of Maori warriors and also on traditional waka to represent safe travels.

The Moko on the lid of the casket was representative of the Maori cloak Private Ross would have been adorned in had there been a traditional open casket, Mr Hall said.

"Because of the time taken to recover Michael's body, a traditional open casket was not possible.

"We are pleased that the use of a designer casket has been able to provide an alternative to some of the tradition of an open casket."

Wayne Lawrence, also from Dying Art, said the family was thrilled with the outcome and took the coffin away yesterday.

"The two cousins that came to collect it today said that Michael would have been really pleased with it."

The pattern was designed onto an adhesive, which was then attached to the coffin.

The Tangi for Private Ross will be held at the Te Paatu Marae near Kaitaia on Saturday and Sunday, with the funeral on Monday.