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Family remembers ‘hero’ mother

Thursday 5 January 2023 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Editor's Pick, Local, National


Family remembers ‘hero’ mother
Memory Kimiora Peu, 52, who drowned on Monday afternoon, has been remembered as a “hero”. Photo: Supplied.

A mother who drowned attempting to save her 11-year-old daughter has been hailed a “hero”.

New Zealander Memory Kimiora Peu,​ 52, died at Arorangi, on the western side of Rarotonga, on Monday afternoon (Cook Islands Time).

She had been attempting to help her 11-year-old daughter Angelina, who was being swept out by the current.

Son Brandon Utia, who lives in New Zealand, told Cook Islands News: “My mum Memory would do anything for her children. She was definitely a hero”.

“She was our home, and we all have such a strong bond with mum. This was definitely displayed putting her life first to save her daughter, my sister Angelina, from being pulled from the current,” Utia said.  

“My mum is a strong person, and I know she fought and used everything in her power to come back to shore, and to come back to her children. But unfortunately, nature took her from her friends and family.

“My mum is one of the bravest people I know. She is so kind and loving, and has the biggest heart. She was the lady of our home, and she will be deeply missed by friends and family.”

On Monday, police received a distress call about 2.24pm, by which time local volunteers had been mobilized, including a neighbouring resident with a boat, and a dive boat.

Several people were on hand to help, including ambulance staff, Puaikura volunteer fire brigade, police volunteers and ambulance staff.  

Police spokesman Trevor Pitt said the deceased was recovered from the oceanside just before 4pm on Monday, some distance to the south of the jetty, after being swept out through the passage.

“We have of course been impacted by the drowning tragedy, a sad incident that affects the whole community, even the Police, who have a difficult job to do,” Pitt said.

“This tragedy scars us all with sadness but especially the families who should be enjoying every happiness, during the holidays.  We certainly convey our sentiments of condolences but continue with our messages of safety around the roads and the beaches.”

A family spokesperson left a message on social media saying: “We are heartbroken with her sudden and unexpected passing, but will continue to honour her legacy of love and compassion”.

“She has left very big shoes for us to fill, however we will forever be thankful for everything she has done and sacrificed for us,” the message says.

“She is already deeply missed by her family and friends in the Cook Islands, New Zealand, Australia and America. We are all extremely proud of this beautiful woman and spiritual soul.

“It has been an absolute privilege to have been part of her colourful and wonderful life. She made us feel like we were capable of accomplishing the impossible.”

Details of her funeral are yet to be confirmed.

Meanwhile, in Rarotonga, Akaoa MP Robert Heather said there needs to be better coordinated emergency responses, saying the response to the drowning event could have been vastly improved.

Heather, who was called to the emergency, said “to put it bluntly, the response wasn’t as coordinated as it should have been”.

“I was the first one on the scene. Police were attending to the daughter. I was contacting those who needed to be contacted.

“The response was too slow, and no one had much of an idea as to who was leading it,” Heather said.

Heather, who was a disaster management coordinator from 2009 to 2018, said this was the first drowning he had ever responded to.

“I’ve dealt with finding people who have got lost, or people affected by cyclone damage, but this is on another level,” he said.

“We’ve got a good bunch of people in the Puaikura Volunteer Fire Brigade, who were the first responders to this incident. But hopefully this event will give us all the kick up the backside that’s needed.”

Heather said there were about 40 members of the mother and daughter’s extended family near the beach, as there was a family reunion taking place.

“There was panic, shock, and hysteria when they found out what happened,” he said.

Heather said he was waiting for a report on the incident, which would then go to Government.

“There are definitely issues that need to be ironed out, and there are a lot of lessons to be learned,” he said.

Heather said there needed to be a look into the Cook Islands response to emergencies, mentioning last week’s Raro Tours Bus Crash as an event that could have been “much worse”.  The crash resulted in two people being treated for minor injuries.

“That crash was an eyeopener in terms of the lack of coordination,” he said.


Barbara Te Awhitu on 06/01/2023

I am saddened for this families loss on such a beautiful island. Much love to the family xo I am also saddened that Heather has used this article to make “I” statements and at a time of great loss for this family. Especially when everyone that attended this tragedy would have been doing everything in their power to help. Please - if there needs to be changes to emergency responses then do it in the right manner and place