'Every moment we're realising what we've lost.': Sister of Kiwi man killed by pirates in Panama on family's loss

The Culverwell family.
The Culverwell family. Photo credit: Facebook

The sister of a New Zealander killed in a violent death in Panama says their family has been left "heartbroken".

Armed robbers boarded a Kiwi family's boat and attacked, fleeing the scene with the vessel's motor.

Alan Culverwell, 60, was shot fatally off San Blas Island on Friday (NZ time), after responding to noise on the roof.

His sister, Derryn Hughes, told Newshub the family were "drained" following what had happened.

"The family is heartbroken," she said. "Every moment we're realising what we've lost - [it's a] pretty emotional time."

Panama broadcaster TVN reported three suspects are now being held in custody in relation to the death.

Hughes said she was impressed at the speed in which the arrests had been made.

"It doesn't bring us any comfort in any way other than that these people are not able to go and do this to another family - it's still very raw," she told Newshub.

Culverwell's wife, Derryn, was attacked with a machete by men wearing hoods, while the children hid. Derryn and one of the children were in hospital but have since been released, Hughes said. Relatives are on their way to see them.

"We have got some people on the ground there now from New Zealand," Hughes said.

Culverwell, a paua diver from Picton, is being remembered as a real "family man".

He bought the vessel, the Aqua Lobo, in Florida two-and-a-half years ago. The family had been travelling through the Caribbean on a long trip home.

They were anchored in a remote part of Guna Yala when the attack happened.

Hughes said they were making plans to bring Culverwell and his family home although nothing was "set in concrete".

"At this stage it's a case of day by day," she said. "He must come home."

GoFundMe raises more than $15,000

"While a shoulder to cry on is readily available here, funds for this type of tragedy may not be," a GoFundMe crowdfunding page set up to help the family says.

"A family is in need and people have reached out and requested this campaign so they may send help from afar."

As of Saturday at 5pm (NZ time), more than $15,000 had been raised.

Huges told Newshub it was "humbling" how generous everyone had been.

"When you think about what New Zealand's been through recently and how generous people have been, that's just blown me away in such a short time.

"That is just so generous of people to do that, so we couldn't thank them enough for that."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said on Friday it is providing consular assistance.


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