[author]Luis Feliu and staff reporters[/author]
Volunteer surf lifesavers have found the body of the Kenyan teenager, Samuel Macharia, who went missing on Sunday at Cabarita Beach.
Cabarita Beach SLSC volunteers searching aboard an All-Terrain Vehicle made the awful find at around 6.20 this morning, 100 metres north of the Salt Village.
Sam’s backpack with his clothes and mobile phone was found on the beach late on Sunday by his adopted Tweed family who raised the alert.
Some of the volunteers who have been heavily involved in the search, including the two Cabarita club members who found the body, will be offered counselling through the SLS Peer Support Program.
‘Some of those who have volunteered have been quite affected by the tragedy,’ said Emergency Coordinator Jimmy Keough.
‘I think the fact that Samuel was a local and known to many people has had a big impact on the whole surf lifesaving community up here.’
Vigil on the beach
Distraught friends and family of the student from Lindisfarne Anglican Grammar School, who came to Australia five years ago under a Tweed Shire Council mentoring program, maintained a vigil on the beach as the land and sea search continued this week and involved scores of police, surf life savers and volunteers.
The drowning of the popular young lad, who was orphaned as a child, sent shockwaves through the school and council communities.
Sam would have turned 17 on Tuesday and was just days away from his year-10 graduation when he went missing.
Just last week, Sam was honoured by his school with a number of awards for his exceptional soccer skills and track and field performances and afterwards entertained students and staff with his ball skills.
Principal Chris Duncan told media Sam was a very popular member of the school community ‘and our thoughts and prayers are with the student’s family during this very difficult time’.
On arrival in Australia Sam was welcomed into the home of council officer Bernie Zietlow and wife Sandra and their sons and became a much-loved part of the Zietlow family at their Clothiers Creek home.
Sam started playing soccer in the slums of Nairobi where his talents were soon recognised at a soccer tournament by Olita Ongonjo, who was taken by the youngster’s skills, his volunteer work and his pleasant and engaging personality.
Mr Ongonjo offered the youngster the required support to come to Australia on a three-month cultural exchange visit, which was later extended to cover his secondary education.
New life in Australia
Sam said he loved his new life in Australia and was particularly impressed with the beautiful beaches in the Tweed.
‘I had never seen a beach before I came here,’ he said.
Sam’s ‘second dad’ Bernie said that when he took him to the beach for the first time, Sam was utterly mesmerised by the crashing waves and didn’t want to leave his new favourite place.
In August, the Zietlows organised a charity soccer tournament – to cover some of the impending bills associated with Sam’s stay – which was well attended.
Image: Sam Macharia (centre) and his adopted dad Bernie Zietlow meet the Kenyan High Commissioner Stephen Tarus (left) in July this year during the launch at Tweed Shire Council chambers of the SafeWater Four program for the rehabilitation of the Gona Dam in Kenya. Photo Luis Feliu