A rugby club has been left in shock after Samoan back row forward Kelly Meafua died after jumping from a bridge into the river Tarn hours after playing in a French second division match.
Meafua’s club Montauban confirmed the 32-year-old had not survived the incident in the early hours of Saturday morning despite the efforts of a teammate.
The teammate, named as prop Christopher Vaotoa in French media reports, jumped into the water but was unable to save Meafua.
Vaotoa was taken to hospital with hypothermia and was discharged in good health on Saturday.
The pair had reportedly 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.
Montauban said the club was in shock following Meafua’s death.
“The entire club is shocked and everyone is thinking of his wife, his children, his teammates and more generally everyone who loves the club,” a club statement read.
“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.”
Born in Samoa, Meafua moved to Nueva Zelanda when he was a teenager but did not start playing rugby until he was 20.
After stints with Otahuhu, Auckland Under–21s and Auckland Sevens, he moved to Sydney where he played for West Harbour in the Shute Shield and the Greater Sydney Rams.
He was also a member of the NSW Waratahs extended training squad in 2014 before leaving for France to play for Narbonne in 2015. He had a spell with Beziers before moving to Montauban last year.
This season he played 24 Pro D2 matches and scored eight tries for Montauban.