Katrina Parker's healing journey from tragedy through swimming 

Manawatū, 15 July 2024 – Palmerston North local Katrina Parker is turning personal tragedy into a mission for change by participating in The Big Swim to raise awareness and funds for water safety and Coastguard Tautiaki Moana.  

In November 2004, her 7-year-old son Andre was fishing near Maxwells Line on the Manawatū River with his 10-year-old brother – an activity the pair adored doing together. The boys saw some teenagers crossing the river and decided to follow. While Andre's brother was carrying him on his back, he stepped into a big hole, causing Andre, who couldn't swim, to be swept away by the swift current. Despite desperate attempts by the teenagers to save him, they couldn't get a good grip, and Andre was swept away.

Katrina recalls, "The Police Dive squad was amazing in the search for Andre. They worked tirelessly all day and found him 24 hours after he went missing. They are incredible people doing such a hard and heart-breaking job." 

“I went back a few days later to have a look at where it happened, and the river was so serene and beautiful. You would never think about what is under the surface. They were only kids; they didn’t know." 

A lifelong water lover, Katrina was deeply affected by the tragedy. However, she found solace in swimming, which helps her feel closer to Andre and clears her mind. "I’ve just had to work through everything – it’s not been easy," she said. 

After seeing The Big Swim on Facebook, Katrina felt it was the right time to share her story and highlight the critical importance of water safety, regardless of one's swimming ability or confidence. According to Water Safety New Zealand, 15 people, including Andre, have sadly drowned in the Manawatū River over the past 25 years.

The Big Swim has drawn over 1,200 swimmers pledging to cover 15,000km, the length of New Zealand’s coastline, to raise funds for Coastguard. The funds will help train and equip our 2,000+ volunteers and maintain 106 rescue vessels across 63 units. 

“It’s great to give publicity to our high drowning statistics in New Zealand, and what better way than to jump into a warm pool in winter,” Katrina said.

"I’ve already made good progress on my 10km goal at the Lido Aquatic Centre. I’m a gym member there and plan to mix up my training alongside swimming.” 

Support Katrina by donating through her fundraising page. To participate or learn more about The Big Swim, visit bigswim.org.nz. 


For more information, contact:
Ben Parsons 
Coastguard Tautiaki Moana Senior Communications Advisor
[email protected] 

Thanks to our life-saving partners:
  • Auckland Council
  • Northland Regional Council
  • Waikato Regional Council
  • Hutchwilco
  • Marine Deals
  • Tower
  • Kordia
  • Hyundai
  • Line7
  • Century Batteries
  • Half Moon Bay
  • NZCT
  • Lotteries Grants Board
  • Lion Foundation
  • Pub Charity