Adieu to Indian student killed in New Zealand

April 18th, 2008 - 5:49 pm ICT by admin  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, April 18 (IANS) New Zealander-Indian Floyd Fernandes, who was among six students and a teacher who died while on an outdoor school excursion in New Zealand’s north island, will be given farewell by family and friends in Auckland Saturday. “Floyd’s funeral will take place Saturday with a Christian service celebrating his life,” Floyd’s father, Francisco Fernandes, told IANS by telephone from his home in Auckland’s Howick suburb.

The Fernandes family migrated to Auckland from Mumbai in 2002 and was coming to terms with this unforeseen tragedy.

A canyoning exercise in Mangatepopo river, part of the rugged and remote Tongariro National Park, turned into a catastrophe April 15 when a flash flood washed away the six students and a teacher from Auckland’s Elim Christian College to death.

Canyoning, also called canyoneering in the US, is an increasingly popular sport in which participants walk, run, climb, and swim through river gorges.

“It is god’s will. Floyd has been on so many such school excursions before. On Tuesday, we can’t understand how the river waters suddenly rose from 0.5 cubic meter to 18 cubic meters in half an hour and receded as quickly,” said Francisco.

“Even though he (Floyd) was dragged two km by the sudden swelling of water in the river, when I saw his body, he was totally at peace with himself. His face was bright, he was in glory with god,” Francisco told IANS.

Floyd’s father, mother, paternal grandmother and 10-year-old sister live in Auckland while the extended family is in India.

“Floyd was the most adorable and affectionate child whose life revolved around the church, god, family, friends and sports,” says Francisco.

When a production or event needed music, more often than not, it was Floyd who would provide it on his keyboard or electric guitar.

“Floyd was a music whiz and could play the electric guitar, drums, keyboard and other instruments. He first began learning music at the age of three in India and studied at Don Bosco school in Naigaon East in Mumbai,” informs Francisco.

The 16-year-old class 12 student excelled in academics and “had a photographic memory”. He was a sports fan and loved soccer and cricket.

Principal Murray Burton described Floyd as a humble student who was a good all-rounder, loved sports and was very active in many areas of school life.

“We have been receiving a lot of support from family and friends here and abroad. Meals have been prepared and delivered, and the church is doing all it can to support us,” says Francisco.

Floyd and the other five students, aged 16 and 17, were part of a 40-strong group on a course with the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre based in Tongariro, which is reported to have had a flawless safety record since its inception in 1973.

At least three separate investigations are underway to find out what went wrong as the close-knit community comes to terms with this awful tragedy, which is every parent’s worst nightmare. Adventure activities are part of regular education in New Zealand and Australian schools.

Prime Minister Helen Clark, the education minister and the New Zealand Parliament have expressed profound sympathy, sorrow and shock at the students’ drowning.

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