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Teenager loses brother and best friend in raging floodwaters but survives by clinging to a tree

Smiling for the camera with their arms folded, this is the final picture of five teenagers who went paint-balling just hours before two of them died in raging floodwaters.

Denver Woolley, his twin Mitch and three friends Nathan Phillips, Jason Lee and Sosi Turagaiviu were celebrating Mitch’s new job as a marine systems engineer on February 3.

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After a round of paint-balling, the 17-year-olds went for a swim at Cascade Falls near Auckland where their day out in the sun quickly became a nightmare. 

Tragic: Smiling for the camera with their arms folded, this is the final picture of five friends who went paint-balling just hours before two of them died in raging floodwaters. Left to right: Jason Lee, Mitch Woolley, Sosi Turagaiviu, Denver Woolley, Nathan Phillips

Mitch, a keen surfer, had travelled to Germany on a school football trip just weeks before his death

Tragic: Mitch Woolley drowned in floodwaters in February

Taken too soon: Mitch, a keen surfer, had travelled to Germany on a school football trip just weeks before his death

After paintballing, the 17-year-olds went for a swim at Cascade Falls near Auckland where their day out in the sun quickly became a nightmare. Pictured: Twins Mitch (right) and Denver

After paintballing, the 17-year-olds went for a swim at Cascade Falls near Auckland where their day out in the sun quickly became a nightmare. Pictured: Twins Mitch (right) and Denver

The boys were playing in the creek when sudden heavy rains turned it from a calm oasis into a swirling torrent of debris-ridden water within minutes.

The teenagers were split up as the waters rose, with half of them on either side of the creek.

Denver, 18, has now told how he survived by clinging to a tree for two hours before rescuers arrived.

‘I thought we were gonna die right then,’ said Denver of the moment he became trapped between a steep ledge and rising water.  

‘We had nowhere to go. The only way to go was to fall in. I knew it could go one of two ways – we get washed in and we end up ok or we get washed in and that’s it.’

Unable to escape, the boys were washed into the pools and Denver was swept downstream.

‘It was like whitewater rafting. Times three. There were logs coming down the size of trucks and wiping out every tree around me,’ he told the New Zealand Herald. 

The teenager managed to swim to a ponga tree and cling on for dear life, covered in cuts and bruises from the force of the water. 

This is the moment Denver Woolley was winched to safety after two hours clinging to a tree

This is the moment Denver Woolley was winched to safety after two hours clinging to a tree

Denver Woolley (left) has relived his nightmare in an interview alongside his heartbroken mother after meeting the helicopter crew who saved his life to say thank you

Denver Woolley (left) has relived his nightmare in an interview alongside his heartbroken mother after meeting the helicopter crew who saved his life to say thank you

Denver was winched to the safety of a helicopter but he would never see his brother or his friend Sosi (pictured) alive again

Denver was winched to the safety of a helicopter but he would never see his brother or his friend Sosi (pictured) alive again

He had hit his head and back so hard on debris that he thought his back was broken.

One of his friends, Nathan, got to safety and raised the alarm with two tourists who called emergency services.

Almost two hours later, Denver was winched to the safety of a helicopter – but he would never see his brother or his friend Sosi alive again. 

The 18-year-old relived his nightmare today in an interview alongside his heartbroken mother after meeting the helicopter crew who saved his life to say thank you.

She said she couldn’t imagine living if she had lost Denver as well.        

The family released a statement to thank friends and family for their support after losing Mitch.  

The teenager managed to swim to a ponga tree and cling on for dear life, covered in cuts and bruises from the force of the water

Pictured: The floodwaters

The teenager managed to swim to a ponga tree and cling on for dear life, covered in cuts and bruises from the force of the water. Pictured: The floodwaters

One of the friends, Nathan, got to safety and raised the alarm with two tourists who called emergency services. Pictured: The floodwaters

One of the friends, Nathan, got to safety and raised the alarm with two tourists who called emergency services. Pictured: The floodwaters

It said: ‘Mitch was taken from us at a time when the world was just opening up to him, having just left Massey High school and about to commence an apprenticeship as a marine engineer. 

‘He had worked from the finish of the school year at a local business, and was about to start his journey.

‘Mitch and his twin brother Denver had spent the day with friends in and around the local Waitakere ranges, a place he lived in and loved, surrounded by the bush. Mitch, a keen surfer, had recently travelled to Germany on a school football trip. 

‘He was always the cheeky and fun loving entertainer in any group. Mitch’s infectious personality always ensured that there was a smile on the faces of family, friends and those that happened to meet him.

‘The family would also like Sosi’s family to know they are thinking of them. The boys spent many good times together.

‘Finally we would like to thank the Police, and emergency services for bringing our boys home and the Waitakere golf club for their support during the search.’  

The floodwaters were so strong that logs, trees and cars were all washed up at side of roads

The floodwaters were so strong that logs, trees and cars were all washed up at side of roads



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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