A water safety official is urging people to take care when crossing rain-swollen creeks after a Northlander died when his van was washed away in the Far North.

The man has been named as Hoani Paraire Tane, 50, of Omanaia. He drowned after the van he was in was swept away in a rain-swollen creek late on Saturday night.

Water Safety New Zealand chief Jonty Mills said rivers could be very unpredictable especially when there was a significant change in the environment such as flooding and extra caution was needed.

Police have also named the teenage passenger killed in a crash at Towai on Saturday. He was 19-year-old Jevon Levi Halvorson, from Kerikeri. The Toyota Hilux ute was driven by a 21-year-old who was also injured when the vehicle hit a tree.


Police were continuing to investigate the Towai crash.

Family of Mr Tane were preparing to take him to Mahuri Marae at Taheke.

A Facebook post from his partner said: "I'm lost for words hun. I haven't cried yet, because I can't.

"To know that you won't be coming home to me & our kids, just [breaks] my heart even more then it is now. Life will not be the same without you. Love you forever&ever&ever. Rest in Paradise My Darling."

Police said two men in their 50s left a house on State Highway 12 at Omanaia, 30km west of Kaikohe, just before 10pm on Saturday, and tried to cross a ford which allowed access across a creek to the house.

Serious crash investigator Senior Constable Warren Bunn said as the men went to cross the ford, their van was swept more than 100m downstream.

The driver managed to escape the vehicle with minor injuries. The passenger, Mr Tane, was found dead on the bank a short way from the van.

"The ford itself is easily passable but with the heavy rain, the van has entered it and been swept away," Mr Bunn said.


Mr Mills said the death was a tragedy for the family and his small Northland community.

"By nature our waterways, rivers, lakes or oceans can be very unpredictable especially when there is a significant change in the environment like flooding," Mr Mills said.

"Waterways can be dangerous and unpredictable. In these types of situations it's about being aware of the dangers, knowing the limits and risks and taking extra caution."

In December, 2014, 57-year-old Colin Johnson was swept away in flood waters as he tried to reach his home across a flooded ford off Waikare Valley Rd, east of Kawakawa.

That tragedy happened in the same area where a Kawakawa couple drowned after being swept away in a storm six years earlier. They had left their vehicle and tried to cross a flooded ford on foot.

In July 2014, a 28-year-old Wellington mother was swept away and drowned in flood waters above Haruru Falls after getting out of a vehicle.