Abbey Caves death: Whānau of Karnin Petera thank the world for kindness after caving tragedy

The whānau of Whangārei teen Karnin Petera, who died during a school trip to Abbey Caves, have shared an extensive heartfelt thank you to those who helped “carry them through”.

A week has passed since the 15-year-old Whangārei Boys’ High School student was swept away in flood waters at Abbey Caves last Tuesday and his body found later that evening. Loved ones gathered en masse on Sunday for his tangi at Te Karae.

WorkSafe and police investigations into the incident are underway.

Petera’s family today took to social media to acknowledge the outpouring from the community and the kind gestures that followed the Year 11 student’s death.


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“From the hearts of all of Karnin’s whānau we would all like to express our immense gratitude for everyone’s kind words, koha and awhi over the past week.

“We have all been so truly overwhelmed by the love and support which has helped carry us through this difficult time,” they wrote.

They made special mention to Whangārei police, who they said had been a “pillar” for the family throughout the ordeal.

“All of the search and rescue teams, volunteers and the Whangārei Fire Brigade, you left your whānau that day to be with ours and we will forever be grateful to you for bringing our baby back home to us.”


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Whangārei Boys' High School principal Karen Gilbert-Smith, far left, with police at Abbey Caves. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Whangārei Boys’ High School principal Karen Gilbert-Smith, far left, with police at Abbey Caves. Photo / Michael Cunningham

The family’s praise included paramedics and hospital staff for supporting them through that first night as well as local iwi and hapū – Ngāti Wai and Ngati Kahu o Torongare – who offered awhi and karakia.

The kindness of community organisations and businesses formed a long list of recognition.

Most notable was the whānau’s address to the teachers and staff of Whangārei Boys’ High School wrapped into a joint message for several other local schools: “We are grateful for you all.”

“To the parents and boys involved, our hearts go out to you, sending lots of aroha and awhi to you all from our whānau.”

The family said they had no words for the incredible $100,250 raised via the Givealittle page set up to help them.

“This will help the whānau in so many more ways than you know.”

The whānau offered words of encouragement for youngsters:

“To all our babies in the community, go and live your life, be happy and be proud you are all amazing.

“Continue to do the things you love. Laugh like you mean it. Do not be afraid. Get back in the water and speak your Reo with pride, that is what Karnin would have wanted.

“Love each other, hold each other and together we will all get through this tough time and any more to come.”


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And finally a message to everyone: “To the nation and the world…we love and thank you from the deepest part of our hearts.”

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