The family of Tevita Kava, who fell from a party boat into the Waitematā Harbour and died, are hoping for answers in a court trial that starts today.

The cruise company - from whose boat Kava, 29, fell overboard during his friend's 30th birthday celebration on June 3, 2017 - is being prosecuted in the Auckland District Court under workplace health and safety law.

A cousin of Kava's, Wellingtonian Ngaire Speedy, said family members were expecting to attend the trial, although she couldn't as she was unable to get leave from her restaurant job.

Mangere man Tevita Kava died in June 2017 after falling off a party boat in Auckland's Waitemata Harbour. Photo / Supplied.
Mangere man Tevita Kava died in June 2017 after falling off a party boat in Auckland's Waitemata Harbour. Photo / Supplied.

She said some family members were coping better than others with the loss of Kava.

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"We are slowly getting there. With my mum - she was quite close to him, he was like another son to her - she still finds it hard.

"When she finds old photos of when we were kids she still gets upset."

Speedy said the family were looking forward to the court case. They had unanswered questions and hoped they would be answered.

"I think that's what my mum is finding hard the most. She knows he's gone, she just doesn't know why or how."

"Just why it took so long for the workers to react when the people that were on the boat said that he fell off."

Speedy's view was that if there had been a more rapid reaction to Kava's fall he would have been found sooner and the family would have been spared the ordeal of the wait.

"We don't want what happened to us to happen to someone else, to another family."

However, in 2017 Red Boats owner Andrew Somers said he was confident his staff followed the correct man-overboard procedure.

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Kava worked at the Tip Top ice-cream factory and spent his free time in church or volunteering to help those less fortunate.

Ngaire Speedy with portraits of cousin Tevita Kava, who died after falling off a charter boat in the Waitemata Harbour in 2017, and his late mother. Photo / Jason Oxenham.
Ngaire Speedy with portraits of cousin Tevita Kava, who died after falling off a charter boat in the Waitemata Harbour in 2017, and his late mother. Photo / Jason Oxenham.

Speedy said he was a loving person - "he loved people".

"He had a beautiful smile, he had a heart as pure as gold and he always put the needs of others before his own."

It was just before 9.30pm when Kava, who was standing at the back of the boat, leaned on a closed ramp and he fell backwards into the water.

He couldn't swim and had expressed his fear of falling overboard in the hours before he did just that.

It was nine days later before the police found Kava's body, in the harbour near Te Atatu.

The cruise operator Red Boats said at the time the ramp wasn't broken and they were unsure how it was unlocked and untied when the tragedy occurred.

A year after Kava's death, Maritime NZ laid a charge against Red Boats of failing to comply with a duty, thus exposing people to a risk of death, serious injury or illness.