Rugby 2022: Samoan rugby star Kelly Meafua died aged 31 after jumping off bridge in France, tributes

Former Waratah striker Kelly Meafua died hours after his team’s victory in the French second division on Friday.

Former Waratahs striker Kelly Meafua died after jumping off a bridge over the River Tarn in France during an evening of celebration, his club Montauban confirmed on Saturday.

The 31-year-old Samoan athlete had played in his team’s 48-40 victory over Narbonne in the French second division on Friday before the tragedy struck that evening.

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According to several witnesses, Meafua had celebrated the last home game of the season in Montauban with his teammates before being seen jumping from the Pont-Vieux, 22 meters high.

One of his teammates, prop Christopher Vaotoa, jumped into the water to help him.

Rescued by firefighters, Vaotoa was taken to hospital with hypothermia before Meafua’s body was found early Saturday morning.

“USM Sapiac painfully announces the death of Kelly Meafua on the night between Friday and Saturday. One of his teammates tried to save him, without success, “the club said in a statement.

“Taken to hospital for hypothermia, he was discharged this morning in good health. All workouts are suspended until further notice.

The entire USM Sapiac club is upset by this tragedy and has a thought for his wife, children, teammates and, more generally, all club lovers. Kelly was a player much appreciated by all, his joie de vivre was contagious and radiant.

“Today we lost a player, a friend, a brother”.

After moving to Sydney, Meafua played for West Harbor in the Shute Shield and for the Greater Sydney Rams in the National Rugby Championship.

He also represented the Waratahs in the Global Tens tournament in 2018 but never played a Super Rugby match for the NSW club.

Meafua played Sevens for Samoa and first came to France to play for Narbonne in 2015. He returned to play for Beziers in 2018 before moving to Montauban last season.

This season he had played 24 Pro2 games, scoring eight tries.

All Blacks exponent Karl Tu’inukuafe, who played alongside Meafua al Narbonne, posted a tribute on his Instagram page.

“We will miss you for my use,” he posted.

– with AFP and NZ Herald

Originally published as “We will miss you”: Kelly Meafua, former Waratah striker, has died aged 31