The rugby world is in a state of shock after Samoan back-row forward Kelly Meafua died after falling from the Pont-Vieux bridge in France. Kelly fell into the freezing Tarn river from a height of 22 metres. Kelly’s Montauban teammate, Christopher Vaotoa, jumped into the water but was unable to save him.
Consequently, Vaotoa was taken to hospital with hypothermia and was soon discharged.
Kelly’s club Montauban confirmed the horrifying news that the 32-year-old had not survived the incident in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Reportedly, the pair had been out celebrating Montauban’s 48-40 win over Narbonne just hours earlier in the team’s final home Pro D2 game of the season at Stade Sapiac.
After Kelly’s body was recovered on Sunday, Montauban released a heartfelt statement announcing the death of the star rugby player.
“The entire club is shocked and everyone is thinking of his wife, his children, his teammates and more generally everyone who loves the club,” the club statement read.
The statement added, “Kelly was a player who was well-liked by everybody. His joy for life was infectious and radiant. Today we have lost a player, a friend and a brother.”
Kelly Meafua was born in Samoa but moved to New Zealand at a young age. Kelly did not play rugby until he was 20, but had a remarkable career.
Kelly had stints with teams like Otahuhu and Auckland Sevens before he moved to Australia. Kelly relocated to Sydney where he played for West Harbour in the Shute Shield.
Kelly Meafua was also a member of the NSW Waratahs extended training squad in 2014 before leaving for France in 2015. Kelly had moved to the Montauban Rugby club last year.
First division French rugby team Union Bordeaux Begles paid tribute to the rugby star and said: “Our condolences to the family and loved ones of Kelly Meafua. Support for our Montalbanais friends, players, staff and supporters."