Friend pays tribute to victim of Bluff boating tragedy

A friend of a man who passed away in a boating incident near Bluff yesterday is lamenting the loss of a “good friend and brother”.

The man, known commonly as Richard, was one of two people who died after a boat got into difficulty in Bluff Harbour yesterday afternoon.

Two others involved in the incident had been taken to hospital in a stable condition.

Nurse Vini Kumar had known Richard, in his late 60s, for about 12 years and had lived near him in Makarewa, north of Invercargill.

“For me, I have lost a good friend and a good brother,” Kumar told the Herald.

“I don’t have any family in New Zealand and [he] was as close as family to us.”

Richard had been a strong source of support when Kumar’s partner Ben McLean, a senior firefighter, died last year in a stag attack.

“Richard was like a brother to us and he would always used to come and help us on the farm.”

“He was always there… a very great man.”

Kumar wasn’t aware of the circumstances around Richard’s death, but said she had been to visit his family, who she described as in shock.

According to Kumar, Richard had sold his block of land in Makarewa about five months ago and was renovating his townhouse in Invercargill.

She said the close-knit Indian community was coming together to support Richard’s whānau and pay their respects.

“It’s not a big Indian community in Invercargill so everybody is getting together… it’s something which is always there with them that their brother drowned, but in saying that, life does not stop there.”

Bluff Community Board chairman Raymond Fife said he understood the boat involved was being used recreationally.

“It was rough conditions out on the harbour today. That may have played a part.

“It’s tragic, and we feel for the family [of those who died].”

A rāhui has been put in place for the Bluff inner harbour, a post on the NZ Southland Hunting And Fishing Facebook page said yesterday.

“As a sign of respect and aroha to those who tragically lost their lives today, also our moana, Te Rūnanga o Awarua have placed a rāhui on the Bluff inner harbour.

“A traditional rāhui requires you refrain from taking kaimoana and pay respect within the notified area.”

The week-long rāhui was in place in the area a direct line from Kanawera-Stirling Point to the Papakaha-Tiwai Point, and all the way up the harbour, including Awarua Bay, the post said.

Maritime New Zealand had been advised and police are making inquiries into the deaths on behalf of the Coroner.

Police would like to hear from anyone who saw a small boat in Bluff Harbour yesterday or who has CCTV footage of the harbour as this may be relevant to their inquiries.

Anyone with information is asked to call 105 and quote event number P048675341.

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