Teen's death in drain: 'Someone's got to take responsibility'

8:14 pm on 7 June 2017

The death of a teenager who drowned after falling into a South Auckland drain could have been avoided, Manukau ward councillor Efeso Collins says.

Tributes have been left at the drain Violet Tupou died in.

Tributes have been left at the drain Violet Tupou died in. Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

Violet Tupou, 17, who was autistic, is thought to have drowned trying to retrieve a ball from a drain in Mangere on Saturday.

Police said they were called to Favona about 4.40pm on Saturday after reports of a woman down a drain.

When they arrived, Violet was already dead.

Her death has been referred to the coroner.

In 2009, two-year-old Aisling Symes also drowned after falling into a partly open manhole in Henderson in Auckland.

Mr Collins said Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Local Board has previously raised the issue of missing drain lids with Auckland Council.

He said that should have been a warning sign that something needed to be done.

"This is an avoidable tragic accident, it should not have happened in the first place and it's unacceptable that it's happened at this stage for this young person," Mr Collins said.

"We as a council need to stand up and someone's got to take responsibility and say 'look we are going to make sure that this doesn't happen again and let's make sure that every possible aspect of safety is looked at so that it does not happen again'."

Violet's death has led to Auckland Transport commissioning a review into the drains they maintain.

The council's director of infrastructure and environmental services, Barry Potter, said technical experts were now working on the scope of the review.

Violet to be farewelled in Whangarei tomorrow

CJ Fa'alanu

CJ Fa'alanu Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

CJ Fa'alanu said he worked with Violet at Sir Keith Park School in Mangere and has known her since she was five years old.

He said he was extremely shocked this has happened because Violet was a bright girl.

Local MP Aupito Su'a William Sio said people have said Violet was playing with a ball and bat with other children and they suspect the ball went down the drain.

"People saw Violet dive head first into the drain to try and retrieve that ball," he said.

Mr Sio said by the time adults had come to help, it was too late.

Violet will be farewelled at Maungarongo Marae near Whangarei tomorrow.