The friends of a university student who drowned in a popular tourist spot 18 months ago described the terrible moment when they were dragged by the rapids during a road trip in New Zealand.
Rachael De Jong, 21, was swimming with her friends on the Waikato River on her way back to Auckland in February last year when she was dragged to her death after the gates of the Aratiatia power plant dam were opened .
The physiotherapy student at the Auckland University of Technology was seen taking pictures with four of her friends who reportedly held selfie sticks a few minutes before the water began to rise.
The group of five girls were left fighting for their lives after an unexpected drastic increase in the water left them stranded on some rocks
Rachael De Jong, 21, studied physiotherapy at the Auckland University of Technology
Rachael had attended a Flochella concert the night before her death. The girls decided to stop at the Waikato River before returning to Auckland
The group climbed onto a rock in the middle of the rapids in an attempt to keep out of the rising water, but they quickly got stuck.
His friends with whom he traveled have since opened up about the devastating incident.
Rachael had been traveling with a group of girls, including her physiotherapy partner Maddie, her friend Gemma and her sisters Alice and Michaela.
They had attended a Flochella concert at Lake Tikitapu in Rotorua and were driving back to their home in Auckland before deciding to bathe in the beautiful Waikato River.
They were joined by two police officers who were friends with Maddie's sister, Sam and Rhys.
In a video that has not been released to the public at the request of Rachael's father, you can see the girls fighting for their lives after an unexpected increase in the water isolated them from the riverbank and left them stranded.
"We thought we were going to be fine on the rock," Gemma told the police.
"But that's when the water started to come out strong and fast."
Sam and Rhys had climbed the highest rock to save themselves, but the girls were stranded on a lower rock.
The Waikato Regional Council that is responsible for the dam told Daily Mail Australia that Rachael's death was a "tragedy"
The council has put additional safety precautions since Rachael drowned, including a steel fence
They were forced to wade through the rapids. Rhys tried to reach Michaela, but she slipped out of reach and both were dragged downstream.
"It felt like a washing machine, I had no control and I was running out of breath and I thought that was it, to be honest," Rhys told the police.
Alice and Rachael were also washed away by the water. Rachael was pronounced dead by drowning.
The Waikato Regional Council, which is responsible for the dam, told Daily Mail Australia that Rachael's death was a "tragedy."
They also said that they had met & # 39; several times & # 39; with Mercury and the Department of Conservation (DOC) immediately after the incident to identify what could be done better to prevent such deaths in the future.
They told Daily Mail Australia that new security measures have been implemented in the area, including fencing and signage.
& # 39; The steel fence, in particular, has made it almost impossible to access the pool. The new graphic signage has been designed to prevent people from entering the water, "said a council spokeswoman.
"Our staff has supported and attended school assemblies where presentations have been given to high school students who talk about the dangers of swimming in the river and why Aratiatia should be avoided."
The afflicted father of the college student has seen heartbreaking recordings of his daughter's final moments captured on video.
These were not "silly girls taking selfies," he told the NZ Herald.
The rapids of Aratiatia are flooded with water from the Aratiatia dam four times a day in summer and five times a day in winter for 15 minutes. Thousands of liters of running water create a popular spectacle among tourists who visit Taupo.
Daily Mail Australia has communicated with Mercury Energy, which is responsible for the operation of the dam to obtain their comments.
Rachael's father, Kevin de Jong, said his daughter and friends were not just "silly girls taking selfies."