Friends re­mem­ber a ‘true gen­tle­man’

Central Leader - - NEWS -

A man who died try­ing to save his drown­ing friend was a ‘‘true gen­tle­man’’ who would do any­thing to help oth­ers, those who knew him say.

Robert Groves, 64, and Ju­dith (Judy) Palmer, 62, both drowned last Wed­nes­day in Raro­tonga.

Mr Groves went to the aid of Mrs Palmer who got into trou­ble while swim­ming in a no­to­ri­ous la­goon.

He and his wife were on the is­land with Mrs Palmer and her hus­band John, who is the Auck­land City po­lice chief in­spec­tor, for the wed­ding of their daugh­ter Vanessa Palmer.

The cer­e­mony sched­uled for the day af­ter the ac­ci­dent has been post­poned while the fam­i­lies deal with the deaths and pre­pare to bring the bod­ies home to New Zealand.

Mr Groves worked at Nura- lite Wa­ter­proof­ing sys­tems in One­hunga.

Man­ag­ing di­rec­tor John Sim­mons says the com­pany learned of his death with sad­ness.

‘‘Rob was a true gen­tle­man who, over the past 40 years in the wa­ter­proof­ing in­dus­try, built a strong rep­u­ta­tion based on in­tegrity, prac­ti­cal knowl­edge and per­sonal ser­vice,’’ he says.

‘‘The fact that he died try­ing to res­cue his neigh­bour is the ul­ti­mate tes­ta­ment to his com­mit­ment to help­ing oth­ers.’’

Mr and Mrs Palmer were mar­ried for 42 years and Mr Palmer has been with the po­lice for 47 years.

Auck­land City district com­man­der su­per­in­ten­dent Mike Cle­ment says his district has been left reel­ing by the news.

‘‘We can only imag­ine the mag­ni­tude of the dev­as­ta­tion John, his fam­ily and the Groves fam­ily are feel­ing.

‘‘I know per­son­ally that the trip to Raro­tonga for Vanessa’s wed­ding was to be the high­light of the year for John and Judy and that much plan­ning and an­tic­i­pa­tion sur­rounded it,’’ he says.

Both cou­ples were stay­ing in Vaimaanga, in the south­west cor­ner of Raro­tonga.

The area is no­to­ri­ous for drown­ings and dis­ap­pear­ances.

At the time of the ac­ci­dent the area was hit by strong winds and swells and guests at re­sorts had been warned not to go swim­ming or kayak­ing.

Cook Is­lands News pub­lisher John Woods says the pas­sage can be tur­bu­lent in the right con­di­tions and he be­lieves as many as eight peo­ple have died there in the last decade.

‘‘It is no­to­ri­ously dan­ger­ous, and there are signs there. With the swell and the tides, a lot of water would have flooded into the la­goon,’’ he says.

Life lost: Robert Groves died while try­ing to res­cue Ju­dith Palmer who also drowned in Raro­tonga.

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