A Tamil leader says the community has been left traumatised by the death of a young student, presumed drowned at Omanawa Falls over the weekend.

The Indian student who went missing at the scenic Tauranga spot on Sunday has been named as Kishore Kumar, 27, by friends and in Indian media.

Police divers recovered a body from the pool at the base of the falls on Monday afternoon and police were working yesterday to make a formal identification and contact next of kin.

Read more: Police divers search Omanawa Falls for missing swimmer
Indian students reportedly swept into water while taking photographs at Omanawa Falls


A spokeswoman said police understood the group had got into the water by themselves.

The death had been referred to the coroner, who would establish the circumstances and cause of death, she said.

A friend told the Bay of Plenty Times Kumar was a Hamilton-based Masters student at Waikato University and had been in New Zealand since November last year.

Reports in Indian media have said Kumar was taking pictures at the falls with friends when the group was swept into the cold pool by a sudden rush of water.

Indian News Link quoted a friend who said he was taking pictures of Kumar and a female friend near the falls when they were "swept away".

The woman was rescued and winched out of the valley by a rescue helicopter, but Kumar never surfaced.

The outlet also reported Kishore's father, Aravindan Viswanathan, in Chennai, India, saying he had lost his "most precious possession".

"Kishore was everything to us. It has been a shock. My wife has not been able to recover since she heard the tragic news," he told Indian News Link.


The family wished to have the funeral in Chennai.

The president of the Tamil Society of Waikato, Senthil Sabapathy, said the community was saddened by the student's death.

"This kind of loss is a very traumatic experience."

A police diver searches the pool at the base of Omanawa Falls. Photo / John Borren
A police diver searches the pool at the base of Omanawa Falls. Photo / John Borren

He understood one of Kumar's uncles was planning to travel to New Zealand to make arrangements to bring him home.

Sabapathy said the society was concerned about young Indian students coming to New Zealand and losing their lives because they do not understand the environment.

"When I was brought up in India there was more importance given to studies, with a little bit of games. There was not much that could hurt you.

"New Zealand is very beautiful ... but here everywhere there are cliffs and water and they don't realise [the danger]. They don't know how it can change so quickly.

"I believe we as a community can help guide them, help them adjust to this part of the world."

He said only large Indian schools tended to have pools and teach swimming, although some other students learnt to swim in their own time.

But swimming in a warm, safe pool did not necessarily prepare them for wading into New Zealand's cold water with strong and fast-moving currents, Sabapathy said.

In 2015 two Indian cousins, 26-year-old Maninder Singh from Tauranga and 24-year-old Jagdeep Singh, known as Gary, from Gisborne, drowned at a swimming spot near McLaren Falls, a few kilometres northwest of Omanawa Falls.

$45,000: Counting the cost of rescue missions in Omanawa

Sunday's callout was the sixth in five years to Omanawa Falls for two local rescue helicopters.

Philips Search and Rescue Trust sponsor liaison Nadine Rogers said since 2013 the organisation's Tauranga-based Trustpower TECT Rescue Helicopter had attended four callouts in the area, including one mission with two patients.

The other two were carried out by the Rotorua-based BayTrust Rescue Helicopter.

Rogers said that on average each mission cost between $7800 and $8000.

Trustpower TECT rescue helicopter pilot Liam Brettkelly said there were also hidden costs, such as the $70,000 cost every five years for maintenance on the helicopter's winch, a piece of equipment often required for rescues at Omanawa Falls.

The helicopter could not land in the falls, he said.

"It's difficult to get in there and get the injured person out, particularly if they have spinal injuries. The winch is the only way."

Brettkelly said he would like to see the access track to the falls improved to reduce the risk of injury in the area.