Two senior officials from the office of the Panama President are en-route to New Zealand to pay their respects to the family of a Kiwi shot dead by pirates.

Alan Culverwell was killed by pirates who invaded his family's boat earlier this month while it was docked off the Guna Yala region, on Panama's northern coastline.

The 60-year-old's wife Derryn was also slashed with a machete in the attack, while their daughter received a knock to the head. Their young son was uninjured but traumatised.

Three men have since been arrested over his death and have appeared in court in the city of Colon.

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Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela apologised to the family on local television at the time and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Panama Republic's Honorary Consul in New Zealand, lawyer Gregory Thwaite, today said the president was so moved by the events he had sent two senior staff from his office to New Zealand to pay their respects.

They had accompanied Derryn Culverwell and the couple's children to Los Angeles. The family are understood to have since flown on to New Zealand.

However, the Panamanian officials remain in Los Angeles as they await visa paperwork to be completed for their visit here.

Alan Culverwell, left, died after being attacked by pirates on a boat in Panama. His wife Derryn and one of their children were also injured. Photo / File
Alan Culverwell, left, died after being attacked by pirates on a boat in Panama. His wife Derryn and one of their children were also injured. Photo / File

"There are two senior officers in the administration who have been sent directly to New Zealand by the president to express the solidarity of the Panamanian government with the family in these sad times."

Thwaite admitted it was a significant move by President Varela but said it was "a terrible incident".

"It affected a family in our waters and the government has moved quickly to investigate the incident. Three people have been arrested and [the government] has ensured proper care for the family and is in fact assisting them in their return to New Zealand.

"These people were apparently intending to sail through the canal and they were off our coast ... there's the human aspect of a couple with their children sailing peacefully in the Caribbean and being brutally attacked and the wife had to fight off the pirates herself, so it appealed to the humanity of our people."

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Thwaite understood that the family were now in New Zealand.

The Culverwells' boat, the Aqua Lobo.
The Culverwells' boat, the Aqua Lobo.

The government officials hoped to land within the week and be in New Zealand for Culverwell's service, which a family spokesperson described as more of a "celebration" of his life than a funeral.

A date for a service had not yet been set but was likely to be next week.

Thwaite said Panama had a "very strong interest in safety at sea", operating not only the Panama canal but also maintaining the "largest shipping registry in the world".

"They fly under the flag of Panama and Panama sets safety standards for the operation of vessels so we are deeply involved in maritime trade and safety at sea ... they recently expanded the canal to provide passage for wider tankers and other vessels and also yachts."