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Friends mourn loss of ‘a great guy’ killed by pirates

Close friends of a Picton man killed by Panama pirates have spoken of their loss as they remember “a great bloke.”

A great, community-minded guy who loved his family is how Alan Culverwell is remembered by friends who are struggling to come to terms with the shock news of his death.

Friend and fellow paua diver Barry Chandler from Blenheim says he met Alan 30 years ago.

His friend’s death was like something from a bad movie, he says.

“It’s unbelievable. I heard through the Paua Association and couldn’t take it in.

“We’re a tight knit group and very close,” he says.

Alan Culverwell, 60, died last week defending his family and was shot at close range after pirates boarded the family’s berthed boat, the Aqua Lobo, while they slept.

His wife, Derryn Culverwell, suffered a machete blow to her shoulder. The couple’s daughter, 11, was also hurt in the attack, while their son was on board but uninjured.

Leandro Herrera and Avelino Arosemen appeared in court over the attack.

The pair were charged with aggravated homicide, robbery, criminal association and mistreatment of a minor. A third suspect, a minor, appeared in court separately.

Barry says he and Alan has spent a lot of time together over the years and enjoyed a long-standing joke at work over who could collect the most paua.

“He had a great sense of humour and when we were diving, we had a competitive thing going.

“I got him into hunting, and we played golf together – he’s one of the most obliging blokes I’ve met,” he says.

Barry says it was while Alan was building his house in Oyster Bay near Tory Channel that they got to spend more time together.

“I’d go up and see Al and have a coffee with him, help him lift a couple of beams.

“I’ll remember him for his practicality, common sense and drive.

“He was very forward thinking, very community minded. He was one of the guys who could just see the bigger picture.

“We’ll miss him.”

Paua Industry Council chief executive officer Jeremy Copper says he had meet Alan in the early 1990’s through work.

“But he soon become a friend.

“As we became more involved, I got to know him very well. He was one of the guys and the first person to put his hand up if something could be done.

“He’d always put his nose to the grindstone and get things done,” he says.

Jeremy says his motorbike-mad friend has always dreamt of getting his own boat and was delighted when he found the right one.

“He showered me with pictures of it.

“It was cheaper to sail it back from Florida to New Zealand so that’s what he did.”

The talented spear fisherman met his wife Derryn while she was a teacher at Stoke School near Nelson says Jeremy.

“I’ve known Derryn for a long time and am devastated for them.

“We will do anything we can to help,” he says.

A bank account has been set up to help Alan’s family. Donations can be made to BNZ account: 020-0500-0698118-000.

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