Three months after his disappearance, family and friends of a New Zealand sailor who went missing in Samoa have honoured the life of their son and brother.

Kilino Joseph Lemafoe Tua, a junior sailor in the Royal NZ Navy, travelled to the island nation in late April for what was meant to be a short holiday in paradise.

But the trip turned into a nightmare, after he failed to return home to local relatives.

He was last seen at a popular swimming hole and attraction, To Sua, on April 29. Samoan authorities have said it is thought Tua was struck by a rogue wave or fell into the ocean.


On Saturday, family, friends and colleagues of the 24-year-old gathered for a memorial service at the Devonport Naval Base in Auckland.

Older sister Isabel Tua told the Herald the ceremony was filled with emotion in a place that their brother - who they called Jo - loved.

"We laid a wreath against the Royal NZ Navy memorial wall ... and we embraced the support around us that day in song and prayer.''

Several stirring haka were performed by Tua's colleagues and friends; decked out in full uniform as well as traditional finery.

Footage shared by friends on social media show Tua's colleagues embracing his mother as she becomes overwhelmed with emotion.

Isabel Tua said the family wanted to come together to mark three months since their brother was last seen alive.

"What we learned from this tragic experience is how much love and support my brother has.

"Although this wasn't an official goodbye for my parents, nor my sister and me, we interpreted the service as more of a gathering of broken hearts to help heal.''

Kilino Joseph Lemafoe Tua's older sister says she feels like she failed to protect him. Photo / Supplied
Kilino Joseph Lemafoe Tua's older sister says she feels like she failed to protect him. Photo / Supplied

The youngest and only son of Lemafoe Joe Tua and Maria Koreti Nepa Tua, Joseph grew up in Mangere, South Auckland, and is a former student of De La Salle College.

He is also a brother to Sheena Tua and godfather to nephew Thadeus Sebastian Tua.

Isabel Tua acknowledged just how difficult the past few months had been on the family and as a sister in particular.

"Being the eldest, you can imagine how much I feel I've failed taking care of my younger brother,'' she said.

"To die for someone is easy. But to stay in this world and live another day knowing my brother is not around - that is the battle I face.''

She said the three siblings had a special quote they all loved: "Never above you, never below you, always beside you.''

"To us, it means when one triumphs, we all triumph. Rich together or poor together - I love you.

"We all face the challenge of living every day, whether it be keeping up with the payments, relationship problems, passing exams, slaving at a low-paying job. But it's the loved ones who walk beside us and help ease this."

As well as the service in Devonport, crew members on board the HMNZS Otago, on duty in the Pacific, also held a memorial service in honour of their colleague.

Prayers were said and stories shared, before a memory box was laid at sea. A photo of the box - bearing a photo of a smiling Tua in uniform - was posted by the Royal NZ Navy on its official social media sites.

Tua's mother wrote under the caption: "Miss you my love. Forever in my heart. Still waiting for you my baby.''