Tongan Husband, Father, Youth Leader Drowns Saving Teen’s Life
Contributed By Nola Taumoepeau, Church News contributor
As families around the world are preparing gifts to exchange and sharing quality time with loved ones, the Koluse family of Te’ekiu Village in the Tonga islands, together with close friends and relatives, are bidding farewell to their beloved husband, father, and friend, Sioseti Sunia Koluse.
Brother Koluse lost his life December 14 as he saved a 13-year-old young man being pulled out to sea by a strong current while swimming at Fotua Beach. Brother Koluse was serving as a youth leader in the Te’ekiu 1st Ward, Hihifo Tonga Stake, at the time of his death. His family and friends say he loved to serve in any capacity within the Church and “would not shirk in his responsibilities.”
He served in many positions in the Church, including as bishop of the Vaini 2nd Ward.
Sioseti’s bishop, Asaeli Fifita, shared his feelings about the young father, whom he called “one of his closest friends and one that he could depend on.”
Through sorrowful conversation, including the shedding of tears, Bishop Fifita shared what he saw that day: “At low tide, some of our group were fishing. All of a sudden the boys were yelling. One of the young men that was swimming was caught in a whirlpool, and immediately Brother Koluse jumped in to help him.”
Bishop Fifita continued: “Both Brother Koluse and the young man were being pulled down in the whirlpool. When the current brought them back up, I witnessed Brother Koluse lift the young man over his head and throw him out away from the whirlpool. In a split second, again the whirlpool pulled Brother Koluse, and this time, when the current brought him back up, I could see that there was a problem.”
Bishop Fifita explained that another of the youth leaders, Brother Fapiano, jumped into the open water to help the young man tread water as help was on its way. A call was made to the nearby Ha’atafu Beach Resort, and owner Steve Burling quickly took his boat out to rescue the young man and two adults.
It was evident that Brother Koluse had drowned when the boat picked him up.
“He was a hard worker and a good friend,” Bishop Fifita said. “Active in everything that he did. Whatever I asked as his bishop, he was ready to provide. He was good with his hands—construction, plumbing, and tiling—and often helped members with their houses without asking for any compensation. He offered his help willingly. He only had one young daughter. He would usually say that everything he did was to bless his little girl. The whole ward will and is missing him as he helped everyone a lot.”
Brother Koluse is survived by his wife, Kalolaine Koluse, and a young daughter, Melemanu.
Sioseti Sunia Koluse and his wife, Kalolane. Photo courtesy Koluse family.