Grieving dad’s emotional visit to son’s drowning site

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The father of one of the two French men who drowned in Lake Wakatipu has made a “very difficult” site visit. 

Eric Soubrier arrived in Queenstown with his wife and daughter on Christmas Day – three weeks after their son and brother Raphael, 21, drowned kayaking back from Cecil Peak in choppy waters at night. 

Raphael, in an open craft with one paddle, was with fellow Frenchman Yoann Firdion, 24, who also perished in the chilly waters before rescuers could locate them. 

Eric says he visited the other side of the lake by boat with Queenstown senior constable Chris Blackford on Monday morning. 

“It’s very sad, very difficult for me to see that and to see it could be, really, that this tragedy could not have occurred,” Eric tells Mountain Scene

The family, departing to return to France today, also met Raphael’s Queenstown friends and flatmates. 

“We had good support from them,” Eric says. 

“Raphael was kind of a leader for friendship and charisma in a nice way. For him the world was very nice and there was no problem, he wanted to go straight ahead with friends, always smiling. 

“He’s a very big loss,” Eric says. 

Eric says his son left behind a “wonderful present” – a diary about his New Zealand trip. 

“It is full of energy, joy, and friendship. The last sentence is ‘Everything is perfect’.” 

A funeral for Raphael was held in France two Saturdays ago, whilst Yoann’s funeral was the following Monday.