Drowned hero's family call for life ring on Wellington wharf

The family of a Wellington man who drowned last weekend want to see a life ring installed at the place where he died.

Forty-year-old Valeliano Mita lost his life while rescuing his son from the water after he fell from Seatoun Wharf. 

"He saved his son but unfortunately he wasn't able to save himself," says Kura Moeahu, Te Atiawa spokesperson.

Following the father-of-three's death, iwi held a karakia with his family.

"[He was] a man who loved fishing and a man who loved family," says Moeahu.

A relative told Newshub that neither Mita nor his son could swim. Now, local iwi want a life ring installed to prevent a similar tragedy. 

"It could have made the difference, it could have made the difference of saving a life or both of them," says Moeahu.

Wellington City Council manages the wharf and says while there are life rings along the central-city waterfront, there wasn't one there. It's now looking at installing a safety flotation device.

"The installation of life rings on wharves or local waterways is at the discretion of local authorities and communities so they are not mandatory across the country," says Jonty Mills, chief executive of Water Safety NZ.

He says councils face problems maintaining life rings. 

"There has been issues with installation of life rings and other flotation devices in that they have been vandalised and stolen - not in all cases, but that certainly there has been a pattern in the past."  

Mita's family told Newshub that it was a strong wind that blew Mita's son into the sea.

"We know what our Wellington wind is like - it's blown over the biggest men, so it's about how do we create a safe space for everyone to enjoy?" says Moeahu.

A simple life ring in the right place at the right time might have been the difference between life and death.