13 Dec 2012

Mother of bride, friend drown ahead of wedding

7:00 pm on 13 December 2012

Two New Zealanders have drowned while swimming in a lagoon in Rarotonga.

Robert Groves, 64, died while attempting to assist his Birkenhead neighbour and friend Judith Lorraine Palmer, aged 62.

The pair, whose bodies were removed by locals an hour after their deaths, were in Vaimaanga for Ms Palmers' daughter's wedding.

Police say Ms Palmer is the wife of Chief Inspector John Palmer.

Auckland City District Commander, Superintendent Mike Clement, says the trip to Rarotonga for their daughter's wedding was going to be the highlight of their year. The wedding has been postponed.

John Woods, editor of the Cook Island News says the area has already claimed the lives of at least eight people.

"The passage in the reef there is pocked with gaps and caves which can trap people, but that's not to say this is the case.

"This was more a case of swirling currents and it does sound like water conditions and water movement which were too strong for the strength of the swimmers."

Mr Woods says there are signs on the beach warning of the dangers.