Family of Kiwi couple killed in Vava‘u fundraise to bring them home

Ben and Rochelle Neill (inset) owned and operated Hakau Adventures in Tonga. Photo / Supplied

The bodies of Kiwi couple discovered in Vava’u’s ‘Utungake island in Tonga are expected to be returned home to New Zealand.

Their families and friends have set up a Givealittle fundraising page in a bid to fund the repatriation.

Ben Rocky Neill, 47, and Rochelle Neill, 48, died by electrocution while repairing their tourist boat and that it was likely accidental, Tonga Deputy Police Commissioner Tevita Vailea said yesterday.

It is understood locals found the pair, who owned snorkelling business Hakau Adventures, before police were alerted.

A  formal inquest was carried out over the weekend after the discovery.

The couple were buried immediately after the inquest on the advice of a medical doctor, Vailea said.

Now their families and friends have set up a Givealittle fundraising page in a bid to get their loved ones brought back to New Zealand.

‘Something went terribly wrong’

“Please help us bring Rochelle and Ben home so they can rest in peace in their own country and friends and family are able to visit them,” a post on the page says.

“Love you, Rochelle. Let’s get you both home.”

A relative of Rochelle’s started the fundraising effort to help raise the money needed to repatriate the bodies as well as helping to pay for a memorial or funeral once they are here

She said the couple, who owned a local tourism business, had been working on their boat when something went “terribly wrong”.

“After two years of the pandemic decimating their tourist business, getting through the Tongan volcano eruption and being currently in one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, Rochelle and Ben were trying to plan for the future.

“They were repairing their tourist boat – hoping to sell it to try to raise the money to come home – when something went terribly wrong and they died instantly.”

The relative said due to the island nation’s current Covid lockdown, it took a week for their bodies to be found by a friend.

The page has a target of $25,000.  However, it is understood that that is the lower end of the scale, the relative posted.

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