Former Samoa sevens star Kelly Meafua died from drowning after jumping into river

Former Samoa sevens international Kelly Meafua died from drowning after jumping into a river after his team’s celebrations in the French town of Montauban, an autopsy has revealed.

Meafua died, aged 31, last Saturday (NZ time) after jumping off a bridge following Montauban’s 48-40 win over Narbonne in their final home match in French rugby’s Pro D2, the second tier.

His club team-mates have launched a fundraising page for the late rugby player’s wife, Priscilla Orzel, who is expecting their fourth child in August.

Meafua played in Auckland club rugby for Otahuhu before first heading overseas in 2014 for stints in Australia and France.

He jumped off the Pont-Vieux bridge into the river Tarn from a height of more than 20 metres after 6:30am on Saturday (local time), French news outlet La Depeche reports.

An autopsy last week determined that Meafua died from drowning.

Toxicology reports are expected this week.

La Depeche reports that Meafua resurfaced in the river but was in difficulty and team-mate Christopher Vaotoa attempted to rescue him.

Vaotoa had to be rescued by firefighters and was found in shock and taken to hospital with hypothermia.

Meafua’s body was recovered a few hours later.

Montauban still played their final match of the season less than a week after his death, losing 30-6 away to Nevers on Thursday (Friday),

Team manager David Gérard said they played in his honour.

Meafua was a regular on the sevens circuit for Samoa and played for the Greater Sydney Rams in Australian’s National Rugby Championship.

In France, he played for Narbonne, Beziers and Mountaban, who he joined in 2021.

He has also been part of the Waratahs’ wider training squad for Super Rugby and played at the Global Tens tournament in Brisbane in 2018.

Meafua is the second player from the Otahuhu club to have died in tragic circumstances in recent months.

In December, Meafua’s former club team-mate, Kawa Leauma, who played for a club in Spain and had represented the Spanish national side in a friendly match in October, died after falling eight metres from a building in the Netherlands.