Rugby

Rugby Player Kelly Meafua Dead at 32 After Falling in French River

One of his teammates tried to rescue him but did not succeed, per a Meafua died on May 7 at age 32 after going into a river in southern France.

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The sports community is mourning the loss of a pro rugby player.

Kelly Meafua, 32, fell into the Tarn river in Southern France during the early hours of May 7 and did not survive, according to a statement from his team, the French rugby club US Montauban.

Per CNN, Meafua's tragic passing came just hours after his team's 48-40 victory over Narbonne.

One of his teammates tried to rescue him but did not succeed, per the club statement. The teammate was taken to the hospital to treat his hypothermia and was released on Saturday morning in what the team described as good health.

"The entire USM Sapiac club is shocked by this tragedy, and has a thought for his wife, his children, his teammates, and more generally, all club lovers," reads the team statement, translated from French. "Kelly was a player very appreciated by all, his joie de vivre was infectious and radiant."

All training has been suspended for the time being.

A spokesman for US Montauban told the outlet are investigating the death.

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Citing local media, The Guardian said it was teammate Christopher Vaotoa who tried to help Meafua. Vaotoa mourned the loss on his Instagram Story, writing in French, "REST IN PEACE MY BROTHER" and "SORRY MY USO I FAILLED [sic]."

"When I think back to all our moments and your last moments," he wrote in French, "I tell myself that life is really unpredictable and that you have to take advantage of every moment."

Vaotoa continued, "Now these words take on their full meaning more than ever."

While he thanked fans for their messages of support, he said, "It's nice to be supported but I'm not a victim in turn but rather the family."

Meafua was born in Samoa and moved to New Zealand as a teen, according to The Guardian.

The team held a public tribute for the player on May 9.

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