A West Auckland couple who were swept to their deaths at Muriwai have left behind nine grieving children and one grandchild.

Former refugees from Burma, Kay Dah Ukay, 48, and his wife Mu Thu Pa, 50, were fishing on the rocks with their three youngest children aged 13, 9 and 7 yesterday when tragedy struck.

An older daughter Dah Htoo Ukay, 25, said her father slipped on the wet rocks as he tried to haul in a fish.

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A GiveALittle fundraising page has been set up by colleagues of two of the siblings, who work at Insulation Warehouse, to help the children take care of their parents' funeral costs and other expenses.

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"When they went fishing they got a big fish and tried to take it out," she said.

"He was slipping on the rock and fell in the water.

"My mother also tried to hold the rod. My younger sister tried to grab my mother, but she fell in the water too."

Jay Ukay, 9, said the three siblings called for help.

Happy times: Kay Dah Ukay and his wife Mu Thu Pa, far left, with their nine children and one grandchild. Photo / Supplied
Happy times: Kay Dah Ukay and his wife Mu Thu Pa, far left, with their nine children and one grandchild. Photo / Supplied

"There was this old man standing on the deck [behind the rocks]. He called 111."

The alarm was raised about 2pm.

Jay said both an ambulance and a helicopter arrived quickly. Police as well as members of the Muriwai Volunteer Lifeguard Service were found their mother's body first.

"They said she was still breathing a little bit but after half an hour she was gone. But my father, he was already passed away," he said.

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Dah Htoo Ukay said it took police about 40 minutes to find her father's body.

The couple were taken to Auckland City Hospital, where the children were able to see their parents' bodies.

"There was rock everywhere on my father's face and my mother's face. The blood was still running," Dah Htoo Ukay said.

She said her parents and the older children had to flee from the Burmese army to reach safety in Thailand 20 years ago.

They lived in a refugee camp on the Thai/Burmese border for 10 years before being resettled in New Zealand in January 2008.

Both parents were still learning English with Waitakere Adult Literacy, but the older children are now working. Dah Htoo Ukay works in the Tegel chicken factory and two of her brothers work at a warehouse.

Mu Thu Pa, left, and her husband Kay Dah Ukay were fishing at Muriwai Beach with three of their children when they were swept away. Photo / Supplied
Mu Thu Pa, left, and her husband Kay Dah Ukay were fishing at Muriwai Beach with three of their children when they were swept away. Photo / Supplied

One brother is married with a 3-year-old son.

Seven children stay at the family home in Henderson where the family has lived since they arrived in New Zealand.

The older siblings will now have to care for the four who are still at school - one at Waitakere College, one at Henderson Intermediate and two at Henderson North Primary.

"We are going to have to look after each other," Dah Htoo Ukay said.

The family are from Burma's minority Karen community and most worship at a Burmese Buddhist temple in New Lynn.

The community gathered at Muriwai at 7.30am today "to bless the place".

Monks from the New Lynn temple then led prayers at the family home. Funeral details have not yet been decided.

• Donations for the family can be made to ASB Bank account 12 3232 0382611 00 in the name of Dah Htoo Ukay.