Pacific | Hawke's Bay

Kiwi teenager dies in sleep while on vacation in the Cook Islands

Mary Kerehoma shows the picture of 15-year-old son Drazei Kerehoma who died unexpectedly in his sleep in Rarotonga last week. Photo: Cook Islands News / Rashneel Kumar

This story was first published by RNZ.

A teenager from New Zealand has died in his sleep during a family trip to Rarotonga.

Fifteen-year-old Drazei Kerehoma’s family is now preparing to repatriate his body back to their home in Hastings on Friday local time.

However, mother Mary Kerehoma says the family has only managed to fund half the amount needed to repatriate her son.

Mary said she was given the invoice last night which needed to be paid by midnight on Thursday (Friday NZ time) in Rarotonga.

“We’re just panicking, we don’t know what to do,” she said.

“We’ve got family putting in money, little bits here and there, what they can afford but we’re nowhere near the amount at all.”

She is looking at setting up a Givealittle online fundraising page to help cover the expenses.

The family does not have travel insurance.

Mary said her son was always healthy, but developed a cough on Wednesday.

“That kid was never, ever sick,” she said, adding “[He was] just active, healthy so that’s why it’s a real big shock to find out that could happen to a healthy person.”

Mary said her son developed a cough Wednesday which stopped on Thursday, later that day he had a sore chest which the family thought was related to his cough.

Mary said she planned to take Drazei to the doctors the following day if he did not improve.

A few hours after Drazei fell asleep Mary found him unresponsive, local doctors suspect the cause of death was likely from blood clots.

She said the New Zealand High Commission had not yet reached out to the family.

In a Facebook post shared on a Cook Islands holiday page, Mary thanked the local community for their support.

“I would like to share this post as an acknowledgement to the beautiful people in Rarotonga, who have shared their love and support for the sudden loss of our boy on the 2nd of May. Please know from us you are so appreciated, meitaki maata,” she said.

“A special meitaki to our funeral director Leelash Chandar for his amazing preparation of our boy. And for his reassurance that our boy was in no pain and died peacefully in his sleep.”

The Cook Islands News reports Kerehoma and her new husband, Todd Bonner, who were married in Rarotonga in May last year, arrived on the island on 24 April for a three-week family vacation with Drazei and his two nephews.

“He was excited for the nephews … he was happy running around, playing and it was not any different from any other day. He was doing the same activities, the same stuff as he did last year, swimming, kayaking, snorkelling, running around.

Even more when he had his nephews because the three of them are like brothers, there’s not much age gap between them,” the mother of the deceased told the newspaper.

“There were no complaints about anything, any pain or anything until that last day.”

By Caleb Fotheringham of RNZ