One dead, another missing in Tuvaruhu falls tragedy

The scene at the SSEC compound where the body was found. Photo: Solomon Star

A woman is dead and a man is missing after an incident during a work trip to the Tuvaruhu waterfall area yesterday.

The body of Stella Lucas, who was an employee at the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau, was recovered offshore near the South Sea Evangelical Church compound in central Honiara yesterday evening.

Police officers are still searching for the missing person, Chris Nemaia, who was Ms Lucas’ colleague at the visitors bureau.

It is believed that prior to the incident, the deceased was on a tour in the Tuvaruhu waterfall area with three work colleagues — Mr Nemaia, another man and one woman — and a male tour guide.

Honiara City Provincial Police Commander Chief Superintendent Alfred Uiga said after Ms Lucas’ body was found offshore near the SSEC compound, officers from Honiara were deployed to the Tuvaruhu area to search for four missing people who may have been caught in the rushing river water.

Mr Uiga said the deceased was carried away by the strong current of the Mataniko River after heavy rain yesterday afternoon.

“At this stage, the cause of death of the woman is not confirmed, but it appears at this early stage she may have drowned in the river,” he said.

Investigators and forensic officers attended the scene, and the investigation is ongoing.

Mr Uiga said officers were able to locate one woman and two of the men, who were taken to the Honiara National Referral Hospital for medical checks.

“I appeal to members of the public in Honiara, more especially at Tuvaruhu area in Central Honiara, to assist police with any information of the whereabouts of the male who is still missing,” he said of Mr Nemaia.

A statement from the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau issued today said the close-knit Solomon Islands tourism community is in shock following Ms Lucas’ tragic death.

Ms Lucas, an SIVB marketing officer, and her colleagues had been assessing a hiking program near the Mataniko River when the incident occurred, the statement said.

SIVB Chairman Wilson Ne’e said the SIVB team is receiving counselling as they try to come to terms with the tragedy.

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