Police spokesman Trevor Pitt said the tragic death by drowning of a 47-year-old male visitor in Aitutaki last Wednesday had prompted police to highlight the need for more awareness about water safety.
Pitt said the man got into difficulty after helping his young daughter, who had tipped into the water while also kayaking. Though both were said to be unable to swim, they had ventured into a deeper area of the lagoon where there was a current. CINews was told they were not wearing lifejackets.
“Unfortunately, the man could not be revived by the local authorities,” Pitt said.
“The deceased is a Taiwanese national and police have liaised closely with the head of Foreign Affairs to communicate with the man's diplomatic representation in New Zealand. The body was flown to Rarotonga on Thursday under charter and has been subject to a Coroner's report. The man was on holiday accompanied by his wife and daughter.”
Water safety on Rarotonga and Aitutaki had already been widely promoted through campaigns and publicity material, Pitt said.
“However, there is a need for ongoing awareness, especially in terms of operators and accommodation facilities where kayaking is provided. Life jackets are too often overlooked as an option.
“All visitors enjoying the lagoon environment should be made aware of the risks, no matter how small and whether kayaking or not. Tidal currents, the reef, and channels, pose serious risks and should be avoided.”
Last week’s drowning is the third incident associated with kayaking over the past year. A previous tragedy involved two men from the US, who died at Muri late last year after venturing out to the reef.
The Cook Islands Tourism Corporation has called urgent meetings to discuss water safety guidelines and an improvement in the handling of visitor safety.
Meanwhile, meetings will be held on Aitutaki today and Rarotonga on Wednesday to discuss water safety guidelines and an improvement in the handling of visitor safety.
The meetings were called by the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation, which said in a media statement on Friday that a number of injuries and drownings in the last year had drawn attention to the need for water safety guidelines and the present lack of an effective legislative framework.
- Release/Cameron Scott