New Zealander found dead in motel room

A 70 year-old Maori man, who came to visit a friend in Samoa, died at a motel in Lotopa on Sunday morning. 

The deceased was identified as William James Ranga from Avondale, New Zealand, by Rita’s Lodge Spokesperson, Ecra Schwalger. 

Mr. Ranga checked in at Rita’s Lodge on 22nd December 2019 and was scheduled to check out on 20th January 2020.

In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Mr. Schwalger said Police were contacted on Sunday afternoon after Mr. Ranga was discovered lying on the floor of his room.

He said a member of Mr. Ranga’s host family came to the Lodge to find the deceased when he did not turn up to a family to’onai on Sunday. 

“The host family member came and asked for a spare key to his room because he didn’t open the door to his room,” said Mr. Schwalger. 

“I gave him the key and he came back and told me something has happened to the man and I should come and see. 

“When I went to open the door, I could see half of his head and I came back to call 911 for help.” 

It was not possible to get a comment from the Police. 

Mr. Schwalger recalled he saw Mr. Ranga earlier on Sunday morning before he left the lodge. 

“He was really sick. I often had to help him with making his tea and reversing his car so he can go to see his host family,” he said. 

“He also had a scar on his chest and I believe it was from an operation…I think he was a lonely man who didn’t have anyone and I was worried about him.” 

Mr. Schwalger added Police came to the Lodge and took Mr. Ranga’s body in the afternoon. 

A member of the host family, Ulia Aiulu, from Malie said the deceased is a family friend who regularly comes to Samoa to visit his older brother who resides in Australia.  

Mr. Ranga did not have children and was not married, he said. 

According to Ulia, they were expecting Mr. Ranga on Sunday for to’onai. He did not turn up. 

His older brother then went to the Lodge to look for him.

He confirmed that a representative from Rita’s Lodge had given his brother the key to Mr. Ranga’s room when he did not open the door. 

“He was my older brother’s friend and he was family to us,” said Ulia. 

“He often stays with our family at Malie when he comes to Samoa but this time he said he wanted to stay at Rita’s Lodge. His routine since he arrived is that he comes to Malie every morning and goes back to Lotopa at night for a rest.” 

Ulia said he had taken Mr. Ranga to see a private doctor on Friday last week before he died. 

“He was sick and he took a lot of pills,” he said. 

“We miss him because we have become family to him." 

He comes to Samoa whenever my older brother from Australia comes for visit – so he makes the trip to spend time with him and our family. 

“William is an old friend of my brother and even when he was in New Zealand he would call us five times a day to see how our kids are and the family.” 

Ulia said his family has met with the New Zealand High Commission on arrangements in relation to Mr. Ranga’s burial service. 

In response to questions from the Samoa Observer, N.Z. High Commission Communications, Public Diplomacy and Policy Officer, Sonya Peters confirmed the office is aware of the death of the N.Z. citizen.

However, Ms. Peters said due to privacy considerations no further details can be provided. 

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