Waitematā Harbour tragedy: 25-year-old chef killed after falling from charter boat

The 25-year-old woman who died after falling from a charter boat in Waitematā Harbour was a young chef with extensive family in South Auckland now grieving together.

A family member confirmed to the Weekend Herald that Danielle Tamarua was the woman who died after she was found floating near a luxury charter vessel about 5.15pm on Thursday.

A witness to the accident on a Zefiro Charters Ltd boat off Rangitoto Island said two men stripped off and jumped in the water in a desperate attempt to save Tamarua.

Police said an investigation involving Maritime NZ was under way into the events leading up to Tamarua’s death. The boat’s “shocked and devastated” owners have begun their own independent investigation.

The chartered vessel had been carrying about 30 passengers.

Te Atatu builder Dylan Chote was on a Fullers360 ferry heading back to Auckland that came across the unfolding emergency and described chaotic scenes as two swimmers with lifesaving rings tried to reach a woman floating motionless.

Chote said he could hear people yelling and in obvious distress.

“When the ferry came to a halt we started looking over and could see a person in the water and other people swimming after the person.

“There were a lot of people on the boat. There was a lot of confusion and quite a lot of chaos. You could hear them yelling.

“I don’t think anyone knew what the hell was going on.”

Chote said he watched as the swimmers reached the woman a short distance from the boat.

Eventually they managed to get her back to the vessel, where those on board struggled to pull the unresponsive victim aboard.

“They eventually got her up, which was quite an ordeal for them and she just lay there for a long time,” said Chote.

A social media post on a Cook Islands bereavement and memorial page described Tamarua as a beloved partner, daughter and sister to two siblings.

“With heavy hearts we the Tamarua and Toparea family sadly announce the passing of Danielle Tamarua,” the post from a family member said.

An offer for family and friends to pay their respects at a family home in Papatoetoe was also made.

The post noted Tamarua’s body had not yet been released to her family but “in due time Danny will be brought home” to the Papatoetoe address.

The 25-year-old trained as a chef at hospitality education provider NZMA in Grafton and had worked at various restaurants around Auckland.

Family and friends shared their grief on social media.

“Rest in love Danny. You are such a beautiful person. Thank you for being an awesome friend,” one person posted.

Another said: “Soooooo sooo shocked!! I pray you find peace in your rest girl. Beautiful soul you are. Love and condolences to Junior, your kids and your families.”

“Fully out of words my cousin,” another said alongside several crying emojis.

Zefiro Charters’ owners, Lawrence Knight and Ben Mostert, said: “We are shocked and devastated with the events that unfolded yesterday afternoon.

“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the deceased.

“We are working with police and Maritime New Zealand who have our full co-operation, and will be conducting our own independent investigation to determine what happened.

“We are unable to make any further statements at this time while the investigation is under way.”

Chote said he approached the Waiheke ferry captain in desperation three times to see if they could intervene with equipment or take people familiar with first aid to her side.

He was told everything was in hand and ordered out of the wheelhouse.

He was also handed a two-year trespass order.

“My biggest regret is not jumping in and going over there and giving her CPR,” said Chote.

Fullers360 general manager Alistair Thomson said a 24-month trespass notice had been issued to a passenger on the ferry after “demonstrating threatening behaviour to our crew”.

“The individual entered the wheelhouse on three occasions and made repetitive abusive comments to our crew, who at the time, were following police instructions to stand by and render assistance when requested,” Thomson said.

“The individual’s behaviour resulted in some crew locking themselves in the wheelhouse and the police were notified.

“We acknowledge that this was a unique and highly stressful situation for everyone who witnessed yesterday’s tragic events. However, the health and safety of our passengers and crew remains our utmost priority.”

Chote said a smaller vessel arrived much later and a person started performing CPR. They were relieved by paramedics taken to the scene on the police vessel, Deodar.

A second passenger on the ferry expressed surprise and dismay at what appeared to be a lengthy time taken to administer potentially lifesaving first aid to the injured woman.

“I’m trained in first aid and a scuba dive instructor and I’m a bit surprised how long they had her on the deck.

“I was distressed and frustrated watching what was happening there. They were trying to render aid on a swim deck of a boat. In a situation like that the swim deck is a terrible place.

“From what I could see it was a surprisingly long time,” he said.

Police were continuing to make inquiries on behalf of the Coroner.

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