A engineering apprentice swept away in a flash flood in the Waitakere Ranges at the weekend "had everything ahead of him".

Former Massey High School student Mitch Woolley and year 13 student Sosi Turagaiviu, both 17, died in the swollen stream at Cascade Falls in the weekend storm.

Mitch and his twin brother Denver, who clung to a tree swollen stream until he was winched to safety by the Westpac rescue helicopter on Saturday night, were students in the college's engineering academy.

Mitch had decided not to continue his final year at high school as he was offered an apprenticeship with a local engineering firm, after interning there during the summer holidays.


"He did a 90-day trial with but was offered an apprenticeship after just 30 days - he blew them away," said Flanshaw Rd School principal Dr Cherie Taylor-Patel, who knew Mitch and his twin brother Denver since they were four.

"He had all of that going for him, everything ahead of him - he even got his driver's licence at the end of last year."

Mitch Woolley, 17 years old, swept away while trying to cross a swollen river in West Auckland's Waitakere Ranges. Photo / Instagram
Mitch Woolley, 17 years old, swept away while trying to cross a swollen river in West Auckland's Waitakere Ranges. Photo / Instagram

The boys' mother Tracey has been a teacher at Flanshaw Rd School for many years, and been involved there for the past 16.

"Mitch was such a great kid," Dr Taylor-Patel said.

"He was always smiling, incredibly friendly and just got along with everyone.

"He was a great role model, and worked hard at everything he did."

At the end of their high school years, both Mitch and Denver would return to their former primary school to pass on their knowledge to younger generations.

One year, as Flanshaw Rd School's junior school put together a "Fairy Kingdom" made from natural materials, the twins put together a fence around the site.

"They were both very good at engineering and hands-on building, and pretty creative."


Mitch played football, water polo and had played the drums since learning them at primary school.

Dr Taylor-Patel said the twins were really tight but had their own group of friends.

"When they started school their dad Mike thought it would be cute if they were in the same class, but their teacher said it was not going to work."

Sosi Turagaiviu, 17, was also swept away. Photo / Twitter
Sosi Turagaiviu, 17, was also swept away. Photo / Twitter

They were in the same class in years 5 and 6, their last years at primary school, when they were taught by Greg Patel, Dr Patel's husband.

Dr Taylor-Patel had been to visit the Woolleys', and said they were being well supported by friends and family.

"Denver had a good group of friends around him, but everyone is finding it hard to believe. They are in a state of shock.

"I have lived in the area all of my life, and have never heard of a flash flood like that in the middle of summer. It was an extreme event.

"Those boys grew up here, the Waitakere Ranges is their backyard. They did scouts there, tramping - they knew what they were doing. They were well-prepared, good swimmers with a lot of experience. It is devastating."

The family is waiting for the coroner to complete their work before they make funeral arrangements.

Flanshaw Rd School and Massey High School held meetings this morning to discuss support for students and staff.

Massey High School principal Glen Denham said his thoughts and prayers were with Mitch and Sosi's families.

"We are heartbroken and in shock," he said.

"They were beautiful boys. The world is a poorer place."

Massey High School is closed for the day.

Ministry of Education sector enablement and support deputy secretary Katrina Casey said the traumatic incident team had been working closely with the leadership team at Massey High School.

"Our sympathies are with those families and friends affected by these tragic events.

"Our team is at the school this morning to determine the appropriate supports for staff and students during this very difficult time.

"We will continue to provide support for as long as is needed."