WITH less than two months to his sixth birthday, Ratu Wiliame Gaunavou, like any other child, was looking forward to celebrating with his widowed mother and sisters.
But fate crossed the path of the Class One student of St Thomas Primary School on the weekend when he drowned while playing with his elder sister near a creek at Naviyago Village in Lautoka.
It was double tragedy for his family that was still coming to terms with the loss of their father earlier this year.
Yesterday, relatives who had gathered at the family residence lamented the absence of Ratu Wiliame's laughter that had filled the home and kept the family going through their hard times.
"He was always playing and always laughing. There never was a time when he wasn't smiling or laughing," said his aunt, Vika Radaniva, who spoke on behalf of Ratu Wiliame's distraught mother.
Ms Radaniva said the family was still recovering from the sudden loss of their father and the young boy's death was hard to accept.
"Ratu Wiliame's dad passed away earlier this year and his death was also sudden. He died while playing for the Naviyago rugby team at Churchill Park," said Ms Radaniva.
She said Ratu Wiliame was a keen sportsman and had dreams to become a rugby player like his father one day.
His elder sister Ana Maria said brother, the namesake of Tui Vitogo Ratu Wiliame Sovasova, said they were enjoying their Saturday afternoon when tragedy struck.
"We were just playing near the water but we did not go to swim," said the nine-year-old.
"He went before me and was playing in the water. Someone called us, so I looked up to see who it was. When I turned around again to see Ratu Wiliame, he was gone."
She said villagers pulled him out of the water when the alarm was raised and their efforts to resuscitate him failed.
Police spokesman Inspector Atunaisa Sokomuri said the incident was unfortunate and called on parents to be more vigilant on the whereabouts of their children, especially near rivers or creeks.
Ratu Wiliame's death brings the drowning death toll to 51 compared to 25 for the same period last year.