TRAGEDY IN PARADISE: Police were alerted after two Japanese exchange students went missing from their tour group on Fraser Island on Friday evening. After an intensive search, police divers discovered the boys' bodies in Lake McKenzie the following morning. Pictured: Police at the popular tourist spot.
TRAGEDY IN PARADISE: Police were alerted after two Japanese exchange students went missing from their tour group on Fraser Island on Friday evening. After an intensive search, police divers discovered the boys' bodies in Lake McKenzie the following morning. Pictured: Police at the popular tourist spot. Channel 9

Principal speaks out on 'unimaginable' deaths in paradise

COUNSELLING will be offered to students at a Sunshine Coast private school today after two Japanese boys drowned on Fraser Island overnight Friday.

Hours after he met with the pairs' grief-stricken families, Caloundra City Private School principal Dirk Wellham said it was "unthinkable" the boys, aged 16, had died days after they visited the Pelican Waters school on an exchange program.

"The biggest thing is our sadness for the Japanese partner school, and the boys' families, who I met (Sunday) morning with the Japanese consular general," Dr Wellham said.

"It's just unimaginable that this has occurred in a beautiful island paradise where they were there on holiday to enjoy."

Caloundra City Private School principal Dirk Wellham met with the grief-stricken families of two boys who tragically drowned on Fraser Island. The boys were students of Kanagawa University High School in Yokahoma, who visited CCPS on exchange days before they died.
Caloundra City Private School principal Dirk Wellham met with the grief-stricken families of two boys who tragically drowned on Fraser Island. The boys were students of Kanagawa University High School in Yokahoma, who visited CCPS on exchange days before they died. Contributed

Dr Wellham confirmed the boys were among 15 students of Kanagawa University High School in Yokahoma, who arrived in Brisbane last Monday and spent two days at CCPS before they departed on Thursday for an eco-tour of Fraser Island.

The tour was not associated with CCPS.

The boys were reported missing about 5pm Friday from a day tour with Sealink, which owns Eurong Beach and Kingfisher Bay resorts on the island.

Kanagawa University High School principal Kikuchi Hisashi published a statement on the school's website on Saturday after police divers discovered the boys' bodies in Lake McKenzie, about 8.20am.

 

Police divers discovered the bodies of two 16-year-old boys who drowned in Lake McKenzie, Fraser Island after they were reported missing from a tour group.
Police divers discovered the bodies of two 16-year-old boys who drowned in Lake McKenzie, Fraser Island after they were reported missing from a tour group. Channel 9

Mr Hisashi said the group had searched for the boys, but called police when they could not be found.

The large-scale search effort involved a rescue helicopter, water police, the State Emergency Service, dog squad and island hotel staff.

Dr Wellham said the boys' parents and younger siblings had flown into Brisbane overnight Saturday to Sunday, but the remaining students had returned to Japan on their scheduled flight yesterday.

"(The families) were in grief and shock and we spoke through a translator," he said.

"They didn't have a lot to say because it's just such extreme sadness and just a great shock that came out of the blue.

"They wouldn't have even had time to process their grief yet."

 

Tourists Anthony Stave and Andrew Foreman at Lake McKenzie following the drowning deaths of two Japanese exchange students on the weekend.
Tourists Anthony Stave and Andrew Foreman at Lake McKenzie following the drowning deaths of two Japanese exchange students on the weekend. Contributed

Dr Wellham said the Japanese students were all aged about 16 and had visited on an exchange program the two private schools had formed more than two years ago.

"On this recent trip they were with us for two days earlier last week, when they had their own teachers with lessons in their own classrooms at our schools," Dr Wellham said.

"Our students shared some lessons and learning experiences with them.

"Our Year 8 students were their buddies on this occasion."

 

The bodies of two missing 16-year-old Japanese students were found in Lake McKenzie.
The bodies of two missing 16-year-old Japanese students were found in Lake McKenzie. Cody Fox

 

Dr Wellham said the head of senior year had spoken with the CCPS families involved on Sunday, and he would gather and speak with students in years 7 to 12 this morning.

He said all parents had received a letter with facts the school was able to provide, and all staff were emailed Saturday afternoon.

Dr Wellham said the weekend's experience was "profoundly difficult" for all involved, and that CCPS valued the relationship with Kanagawa University High School and hoped it would continue.

He described the exchange students as "delightful children".

"And that's the saddest thing, they are really good people who will be missed," he said.

"I met them and shook their hands and gave them certificates and will have said 'hello' to them, saw them having lunch with our children, they sat as a large group, they were so happy together."

In the wake of the tragedy, Dr Wellham said Kanagawa had stated it would review its procedures.

"We take risk management of our exchange programs very seriously and will continue to do so," Dr Wellham said of his own school.

"It's very much about giving the children a wonderful experience and being safe while doing it."

SeaLink chief executive officer Jeff Ellison said staff were among those who searched for the boys, and all were "deeply saddened by the tragic event".

The Queensland Police Service stated a report would be prepared for the coroner.



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