Family of man missing at sea wait for answers

6:53 pm on 6 June 2017

The search for a man who went overboard in Auckland Harbour on Saturday night has been suspended, but his family are not giving up hope of finding him.

Ellie Sitaleki-Lovo said her cousin was the backbone of her family.

Ellie Sitaleki-Lovo said her cousin was the backbone of her family. Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

Tevita Kava, 29, of Mangere was on a charter boat for a friend's birthday when he went overboard about 9.20pm on Saturday.

The police dive squad, eagle helicopter, and search and rescue volunteers have scoured the sea and shore, with help from his family and friends.

Today, Mr Kava's cousin Ellie Sitaleki-Lovo waited by the shore at Island Bay Wharf in Beach Haven, in case there was news but mostly to be close to her family member.

Ms Sitaleki-Lovo said her cousin likely fell off the boat near to the area and the family has been there every day since.

"To have his body come back home would give us a lot of closure," she said.

Ms Sitaleki-Lovo said his friends, who were on the boat at the same time as her cousin, said Mr Kava was taking pictures of the view, when he fell through a barrier.

He did not know how to swim, and the family has been left questioning whether the barrier, which she said came to thigh height, was safe enough.

Mr Kava, who recently graduated from the Elin Christian Centre, was the backbone of her family, Ms Sitaleki-Lovo said.

"He was always giving and really loving - he would always go out of his way to help people out," she said.

Ms Sitaleki-Lovo said she had been astounded by the support from the local community.

A lot of strangers have been searching the water on their paddleboards and boats since Saturday night, she said.

It was something he would have done, she said. "It's just beautiful ... One of the ladies almost broke down in tears, because when she was a little girl, she lost her father when he drowned."

"I don't have the words to say thank you," Ms Sitaleki-Lovo said.

Police and Maritime New Zealand are investigating the accident.

The company that owns the charter boat, Red Boats, did not respond to RNZ's request for an interview.

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