Tragic accident at footbridge over weekend

The family of Raglan teenager Richard Keremeta, who died tragically on Monday after an accident occurred bombing off the Raglan footbridge, have asked people to refrain from harassing or threatening the other person involved in the incident.

Huntly Sergeant John McCarthy says police have talked to a 17-year-old male who had the “collision with the deceased”, and they are happy with the circumstances of the incident.

Mr McCarthy had told media that a group of teenagers had been bombing off the Raglan footbridge and one of them had accidentally collided with the victim but left the scene. There had been concerns for his welfare.

A statement by Mavis Maihi-Marshall, Richard’s cousin, on Facebook, asks: “On behalf of Richard’s family we ask that no one speaks to the media and to refrain from any harassing or threats towards the other person involved in the incident (sic).

“We ask for a peaceful send off over the next few days and to be mindful that this is a sensitive manner. We understand however the hurt and frustration that this particular incident has caused however our Grandmother and whānau has asked for peace, love and harmony for our boy! (sic)”

Mr McCarthy says the matter has now been referred to the coroner, and is not a police inquiry. Welfare services have also been made available to the young man who fronted to the police.

Raglan Fire chief Kevin Holmes says the brigade was called to the fatal accident at about 12.22pm on Monday. At the time the Raglan ambulance was out on another call and a paramedic had to come out from Hamilton by rescue chopper. Prime volunteers were also in attendance.

CPR was performed on Richard for over an hour but the attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. He was underwater for about 10-15 minutes before his friends found him.

“It’s tragic and it’s always going to be a bit tougher in the smaller communities where everyone knows everyone,” says Mr Holmes.

Fire officer Dirk De Ruysscher, who attended the callout, says he coached Richard, who was 16 and in year 13 at Raglan Area School, in the school basketball team for four years, and Richard was a friend of his youngest son.

He says when he first started coaching Richard he was “a really shy boy” but soon became “the building block for the team”.

“He was a very nice boy, polite …  really good character. He was surrounded by good boys.”

Raglan Area School principal Malcolm Cox says Richard’s tragic death has garnered a lot of media attention.

A special assembly was held on Tuesday morning at the school. “It’s really about prayer, and how to help our kids stay safe,” says Mr Cox. “It’s OK to grieve, but to stay safe in your grieving.”

He says the assembly was a real sign that school is community. “We had ex students, gone two years, there, looking out for their mates and siblings.”

Richard’s body will be at the Aramiro Marae, Waitetuna Valley, until Saturday. Then his body will be taken to the Ahurei Urupa, Parawera Marae, in Kihikihi.

Mr Cox says the school would visit the Aramiro Marae to pay their respects.

He says Richard was a good kid who had come to him at the end of last year, chuffed that he had passed level two NCEA. “That was a big deal. He was a sportsperson … and someone really chuffed to get level two. He was all ready for school this year and to do level three.”

Richard’s family has also publically acknowledged the work by the rescue crew and everyone who tried to help save him. They have thanked the community for their kind words of support, prayers and condolences.

Raglan Community board member Lisa Thomson says a discussion will be held around the safety of the bridge at a moment that is appropriate for Richard’s whanau and friends.

Waikato District Council chief executive Gavin Ion says sympathies go out to both families affected by the tragic accident in Raglan.

He says council does not condone jumping off the bridge and will be reviewing the signage currently in place on the bridge. It says: “jumping at low tide may result in injury”.

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