Tragedy struck a family’s Chirstmas holiday tafaoga when a 20-year-old boy did not emerge from making the jump into the popular plunge pool at Togitogiga Falls.
The Togitogiga multi-layered Waterfalls in O Le Pupu Pue National Park at Saleilua village is a popular stop for family day-outs, and the same jump has been made by locals and visitors alike, many times before.
A witness who was at the falls at the time of the accident said it happened between 3:30-4:30pm.
Kiei Vaiti Tala, 20, of Saleilua was swimming with his younger brother when the incident happened. He told Samoa Global News that the current was strong at the time.
“O le taimi tonu lava lena ua pa le vai ae o atu ai taeele, ae o loo matua malosi lava le kafe o le vai..lea la sa tupu ai ma le faalavelave i si uso..”
Kiei said they and other youth of the village arrived a lot earlier, and they all jumped. However, when they could see that the river flow had gotten stronger, they stopped.
He said a lady looking after the falls did come and warn visitors against jumping, but he does not know if the family from Malie were there then, or heard the warnings.
“O le taimi e lei pa mai le vai sa toatele taelega. Sa matou iai ma fepuga uma a tamaiti; ae o atu si vaega lea na tupu ai le faalavelave ua pa le vai, but la sa alu atu le fafige e vaaia le vai warn atu tagata ae oute leiloa pe na iloa e latou le warning..”
Kiei said they had all helped to try locate the boy, and he was sad to see family members crying by the pool for their boy.
“Faigata ia ina ua le maua si uso, ona sa toatele lava si aiga sa fetagisi ma lauē i luga o le vai”.
Police Commissioner Su’a Fuiavailiili Egon Keil confirmed both Police and Fire responded after family and bystanders could not locate the boy below the water.
Commissioner Keil says a professional diver usually called upon for this type of incident, had later recovered the boy’s body after several attempts.
“We are yet to complete our investigation but it appears to be an unfortunate accident and signs of foul play cannot be found”, said Su’a Fuiavailiili.
The Commissioner says they are still investigating the incident as the jump, that is a normal growing-up-in-Samoa activity for youth visiting the Falls, is usually quite safe.
“We are trying to determine whether the water current was just too strong, or other factors such as a pre-existing health condition was involved”, said Su’a.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the grieving family at this time.