Devastated mother loses husband, two sons in one day
The pain is unimaginable for Lolo Peteru. On Tuesday afternoon, the 39-year-old mother from Neiafu Savai'i lost her husband, Mua'au Saito, and her two sons, Peteru and Talapapa Peteru, when they were swept away by strong currents.
During an interview with the Samoa Observer at their house at Neiafu on Wednesday evening, Mrs. Peteru confirmed that the bodies of her two sons have been found while that of her husband has not.
"My two sons are now at Tuasivi, but we are still hoping and praying that we find the body of my husband soon," she said.
Mrs. Peteru could not hold back her tears as she talked about the living nightmare her family is going through.
"Never in my wild imagination did I think something like this would happen to me and my family," she said.
"It all seems unreal to me. It's hard to swallow this pain and I still cannot accept the fact that my husband and sons are gone."
The heart-broken mother recalled their Tuesday as "just another normal day."
"On Tuesday, my husband went to help out with construction works for one of our relatives' place," she said.
"I was at home doing my usual chores and my two sons, Peteru (12-years-old) and Talapapa (18-years-old) said they wanted to go fishing. We have good fishermen in my family so the boys enjoy tagging along when their father or uncle goes out to the sea to fish.
"However, on Tuesday, I told my sons to wait for their father to get back, but they insisted to go.
"As you know, teenagers are hard to handle in this day and age, most of them do not listen and want to do whatever they want.
"Not long after they left home, my husband came home in the afternoon from work and I was at the cook house.
"I was having a good conversation with a relative who came to visit. My husband greeted us then walked to the house, he said they were on a break, and he thought he would come home instead of joining the rest of their team for lunch."
That was when a niece told them that Peteru had drowned.
Shocked and uncertain, Mrs. Peteru said they ran towards the sea.
"I became numb," she said. "I did not fully understand what was happening. As for my husband, he got up and ran quickly. My daughter ran after him as I was still trying to gather my thoughts. My heart felt heavy as I ran after my husband and daughter."
Mrs. Peteru said when she got to where the incident occurred, her husband and her 18-year-old son, Talapapa, were already in the sea.
"That was the last I saw and heard of my husband," she said. "He called out to us to throw down some tree trunk into the sea to help them as the currents and waves were so strong."
Unfortunately, Mrs. Peteru said the strong waves swept them away and they started calling for help.
"I think if my husband and son did not dive in and made another move, both of them would still be here. But I think they both panicked and all they wanted to do was to get down there and help out my son Peteru who drowned first."
Mrs. Peteru said the pain of losing a husband is not new to her.
This is because her first husband also died at sea, and this year marks the 10th year since his passing.
But she admits that it is even harder this time with her two sons.
"It's unacceptable," she said. "Especially when it happens unexpectedly and when you lose not one but three. Even those with strong faith can lose it all when something like this strikes."
Mrs. Peteru said the blame has been put on her for what happened, something she takes to heart while still trying to come to terms with what happened.
"It is hard when people start kicking you while you are already down and helpless..." the mother said through her tears.
"I have been getting phone calls and comments from people saying it is my fault my sons and husband are gone because I should've stopped the boys and told them to stay.
"And I take that to heart because I am starting to blame myself too and regret not forcing them to stay home instead of going out to the sea. But how was I supposed to know that they would meet an accident? We never know what happens in the next hour or second and I do blame myself for what happened."
Nonetheless, Mrs. Peteru said she will try to be strong for her surviving six children.
"It's hard for me to see my children crying because of what happened. As a mother, the only thing I can do to help them cope with the pain is to be strong for them.
"I have no choice but to hold it together for my children. That's my job as a mother, and I know my husband would want me to be strong for my family."
Mrs. Peteru remembers her late husband as a hard-working person, a loving father, and a faithful husband. He is also someone who loves helping without asking anything in return.
"If you ask people from the people, they will tell you that Saito is a hard-worker. He loves helping others even if he does not earn anything from it. That's what Saito instilled in my children and my two sons followed such values. They had big hearts and are always happy to help anyone in need."
Lastly, Mrs. Peteru said they will continue to search for the missing body of her husband.
Phone calls were made to the Police Commissioner for a report of the incident. However, Fuiavailili Egon Keil did not answer and said to text him. Text messages were not replied to.
It is understood that the Police Commissioner was in Savai'i and they were up at Mount Silisili for police training on Wednesday.
Attempts made to the head of Savai'i Police Operations for a report were also unsuccessful.
However, the Samoa Police Service posted an update on their Facebook page on Wednesday evening.
The announcement is printed below in verbatim.
DROWNING AT NEIAFU SAVAII
On Tuesday 9 June 2020 at around 1.30 noon Asau Police Post responded to a call for assistance with regards to efforts in locating two boys and their father reported to have been washed away by the ocean at Neiafu.
Circumstances of the matter indicates that two brothers and their cousin went fishing on the lava rocks at Neiafu. However, due to high tide and strong sea surge one of the boys was caught by waves. His older brother jumped in to try and saved him.
The cousin reported the matter to his family and the father of the two boys responded in trying to locate his children. The body of the 12 year old was recovered yesterday evening and his 18 year old brother was recovered at around 8 am this morning. The 48 year old father remains missing and is believe to have been drowned.
Fagasa and Neiafu village as well as divers from Nafanua 2 Patrol boat responded to the recovery operation.
SPS wishes to take this opportunity to remind parents and guardians the importance of stressing to our young people especially our children all aspects of safety.
We offer our deepest condolences to the grieving family.