4 Jan 2009

Two people drown in separate incidents

6:08 am on 4 January 2009

A birthday celebration turned to tragedy after an Australian man drowned when he fell from a boat near Motutapu Island on Saturday afternoon.

The 51-year-old was one of two men who drowned in separate incidents in the North Island on Saturday.

Australian resident Leonard Muru- Paenga was in New Zealand celebrating a 50th birthday and was boating with a friend when the accident occurred.

His next-of-kin have been notified and his relatives are travelling to Auckland.

At Lake Tararewa in Rotorua, a 29-year-old man who could not swim drowned after slipping from a shallow part of the water, into a deeper area about 2pm on Saturday.

He was with a group of friends who also could not swim.

A group of holidaymakers retrieved the man from the water, but were unsuccessful in reviving him.

Police are praising the actions of the holidaymakers.

The drownings have taken the number of people who have drowned this year to four, after two people drowned on New Year's Day.

Last year, 96 people died in drowning accidents throughout the country.