8 Aug 2013

Paritutu Rock victims remembered one year on

9:16 pm on 8 August 2013

About 1000 people have attended a service at Spotswood College, New Plymouth, in memory of the three people drowned off Paritutu Rock exactly a year ago. They included students, staff, families and those involved in the rescue attempt.

Spotswood College students Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye and Felipe Melo - a Brazilian exchange student - drowned in high seas, along with outdoor instructor Bryce Jourdain, who had jumped into the sea to try to save them.

The body of Felipe Melo was the only one recovered, several weeks after the accident.

College principal Mark Bowden says Thursday 8 August is especially difficult for the families and friends of the three who drowned. "We're all feeling a little vulnerable," he says, "but it is an important occasion for us to acknowledge and get alongside the families."

A stone sculpture commemorating the three victims was unveiled at the service. "The sculpture is called 'The Cloak'," Mr Bowden says, "and it speaks of the wrapping around of aroha and love for those who are lost and for those that remain behind. It's situated in a place in the school that's surrounded by tall cabbage trees."

New Plymouth mayor Harry Duynhoven, who attended the service, says the sculpture is a fitting memorial. "I think the school has done a remarkably sensitive and appropriate memorial service today for the three who were lost," he says, "and it's a tough time for them because of course all the inquests and inquiries are still going on."

At a car park near Paritutu Rock itself, about 20 people - many of whom were involved in an informal search following the tragedy - braved a windy grey day to gather in memory of the victims. Their plan was to stay until dark.

The Taranaki Outdoor Pursuits and Education Centre (Topec) also held its own private memorial service. The centre has admitted it failed in its safety duties during the trip and it will be sentenced on health and safety charges in September.