Whangārei builder injures spine while diving in a pool in Panama

Whangārei builder Marcel Syron suffered serious spinal injuries while diving in a swimming pool in Panama.
Photo / Supplied

A Whangārei builder suffered serious spinal injuries while diving in a swimming pool halfway through his round-the-world adventure on his yacht, his father has revealed.

Marcel Syron is in critical condition at a hospital in Panama City following the accident, which happened onshore on March 26 as he prepared to sail through the Panama Canal.

Family and friends have set up a Givealittle page to raise the $200,000 needed to pay for his immediate costs while in Panama and for his transportation back to New Zealand.

They had managed to raise almost $23,000 at edition time.


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His father, Bob Syron, who also lives in Whangarei, said his son joined other yachties ashore and left his yacht on anchor. “On the way, they stopped over at a swimming pool and he dived in at one end of the pool. The water was murky.

“The pool had two stairs along the length of the pool to approximately halfway. Marcel hit his head on the buttress of the stairs, broke his back, and damaged his spinal column.

“Nobody noticed him going into the pool, although there were swimmers around, and it was some time before he was discovered under water. Now he’s in a critical condition and because pneumonia had set in, he’s on life support,” Bob Syron said.

Marcel Syron’s yacht had been hauled out from Colon where it was anchored, onto a hard stand, and his father said there would be quite a bill for it.


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Because no one had legal access to his yacht, Bob Syron said authorities wanted to charge him $US1000 a day to bring it to a marina but his daughter Donna’s partner Jimmy, who is fluent in Spanish, managed to get the yacht onto a hard stand.

“I am absolutely astounded by the teamwork from family and friends that has gone into helping Marcel so far. He set sail from the Mediterranean, across the Atlantic and around the Caribbean, and called at various ports and saw a lot of interesting things along the journey.

“The next stage was travel to the Pacific and back to Whangārei and it would have been probably another year before he got home.”

Marcel was the youngest of five children. The others are all girls. “He had five mothers,” his father said.

Marcel is expected to spend the next two to three months in the Panamanian hospital.

The injured yachtie owns tiny house company Love Shack, which he set up in Whangārei in 2015 to do his bit for the tiny house movement in New Zealand after seeing the trend take off in Europe.

The small, transportable dwellings are custom built and provide an alternative to unsustainable and unaffordable housing. A builder for 27 years, Marcel is passionate about the environment — another reason he took up tiny house building. He took a sabbatical to sail around the world between 2022 and 2024.

To donate, go to givealittle.co.nz/cause/marcel-syron-medical-and-travel-home-fund.

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