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Missing fishing boat in Gisborne: Tributes from friends and family after the deaths of three fishermen

Riki Tana said: “Big love to you bro Elwood Higgins slayer of all slayers”.

“Rip cuzzy Elwood Higgins..condolences to all my Higgins whanau..love to all….”

Gisborne man Elwood Higgins has been identified as one of the men who died after their fishing boat went missing on the east coast.  Photo / supplied
Gisborne man Elwood Higgins has been identified as one of the men who died after their fishing boat went missing on the east coast. Photo / supplied

A man who appeared to be Sinoti’s father said “kuo’ ne tatau mai,” describing his son’s death in Tongan on Facebook, according to Tongan-New Zealand online news channel Kaniva Tonga.

Meanwhile, a Givealittle page has been set up by a family friend of Macpherson to help cover the costs of his funeral and continued support for his wife Vivien and two children.

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Macpherson was “a ray of light and love and laughter taken too soon,” the page reads.

“Damo leaves behind a devastated young family who must deal with unexpected funeral costs as they try to revive the lives that revolved around him.”

Macpherson, 38, was a respected Poverty Bay rugby referee and father of three.

Hamish Campbell, chairman of Poverty Bay rugby referees, told Stuff that Macpherson, known as Damo, was a highly regarded and respected referee “who was known to a lot of people in the district”.

“As good as he was as a referee, it was almost a small thing compared to everything else he did in his life. He was a dog test subject, he was on his kids’ school board, lots of things. He was a great guy, he really was,” he said.

A police spokesman said formal identification of the three men was still ongoing, but they were believed to be the fishermen reported missing on Monday.

Poverty Bay Rugby referee Damien MacPherson has been named as one of the victims of the Gisborne fishing boat tragedy.  Photo / Facebook
Poverty Bay Rugby referee Damien MacPherson has been named as one of the victims of the Gisborne fishing boat tragedy. Photo / Facebook

Two of the men were spotted alive in large seas yesterday.

Maritime NZ and Rescue Coordination Centre staff this morning offered their thoughts and condolences to those affected by the tragic events at Gisborne.

Gisborne Tatapouri Sports Fishing Club chairman Roger Faber was part of a group of people on three boats that went out on Monday. Two had returned when the weather changed, while the three fishermen were on the third boat, which was missing.

Faber told Three’s AM Show this morning that the community would be “absolutely devastated” if they woke up to hear the bodies of the three men had been found – especially after two were spotted alive.

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“We all thought, ‘Hey, we’re going to have a great outcome,’ but to hear this news this morning is absolutely devastating,” he said.

He added that the worst part was that he couldn’t do anything.

“Every boat in this marina would have been looking if they could, but the conditions just didn’t allow us to do that. It’s heartbreaking.”

Due to weather conditions, the Coast Guard had to return last night before they reached the men.

“I know those guys, they… take pride in being able to do this work,” he said.

“It would have been one of the hardest things they probably would have ever had to (do).”

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Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz said it was a very sad day for Tairāwhiti.

“As a community we are in mourning and we ask the community to give the families involved time to grieve for their loved ones and bring their husbands home,” she said.

“I know everyone in Tairāwhiti knows one of the men. They were much loved, respected and will be missed.

“We will wrap our love around the families when they are ready.”