The partner of Danielle Tamarua has paid an emotional tribute to their daughter who today spent her "first birthday without mummy" after the young chef died in a charter boat accident on Waitematā Harbour.
Junior Toparea took to Facebook today to acknowledge his daughter Merigold's sixth birthday just two days after her 25-year-old mother was killed off Auckland's Rangitoto Island.
"Happy 6th birthday to my daughter MERIGOLD ORA TANGIANAU love you my babe," Toparea wrote.
"Daddy got u from now on u and ur brother u are my main babe in my life now to help me out.
"It's sad this will be ur first birthday without mummy and it hurts just know mummy is looking down over us ."
A family member confirmed to the Herald this afternoon Tamarua's body had not yet been returned to family in Papatoetoe where her mother, brother and sister are mourning.
Tamarua was a mother of two and worked as a chef at catering company LittleWolf where staff are "deeply distressed" and "sad beyond words" at her death.
The accident occurred at 5.15pm on Thursday after Tamarua fell overboard from the Zefiro Charters Ltd charter which had about 30 of her catering colleagues on board.
Police said an investigation involving Maritime NZ was under way into the events leading up to Tamarua's death. The boat's "shocked and devastated" owners have begun their own independent investigation.
Police confirmed another guest on the boat entered the water to help Tamarua, but was unsuccessful. Police clarified that person was not injured in the incident.
An eyewitness to the accident on a nearby Fullers360 ferry said a further two men then stripped off and jumped in the water in a desperate attempt to retrieve Tamarua.
Eventually the two men were able to get Tamarua back to the charter vessel where those on board struggled to pull her unresponsive body aboard.
As the death has been referred to the coroner, neither police nor the St John medics who responded out on the water could comment on the events and treatment administered to Tamarua.
A statement from LittleWolf Catering general manager Marcel Leydesdorff said Tamarua was "a beautiful, kind and much loved member of our team".
"We are sad beyond words and extend our deepest condolences to Danielle's family and friends," Leydesdorff said.
"We express our gratitude to all first responders including the paramedic and trained first aiders onboard at the time of the incident, the crews of the ferries who responded to the emergency calls, the police and Westpac Rescue."
Zefiro Charters' owners Lawrence Knight and Ben Mostert earlier said in a statement released on Friday: "We are shocked and devastated with the events that unfolded yesterday afternoon.
"Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the deceased.
"We are working with police and Maritime New Zealand who have our full co-operation, and will be conducting our own independent investigation to determine what happened."