'He deserves to be remembered': Teen who died on school camp honoured 20 years on
It's been 20 years since Mathew Chaina witnessed his older brother Nathan's tragic death and he still thinks about it every day.
The 15-year-old fell into a river and drowned while on a camping trip in the NSW Kangaroo Valley with their prestigious Sydney private school, Scots College, in 1999.
"I was there, a metre away from my brother, when he got washed off the log," Mathew, now aged 34, told nine.com.au.
"Twenty years is a long time, in some ways it feels like it's been 50 years, because of all that has happened.
"I'm getting older, I'm starting to get a few grey hairs, but even in another 20 years I going to be thinking I miss my brother, because I do, every day.
"And every day is a struggle for me … I still have nightmares."
This Friday, Scots College will hold a memorial service to remember Nathan, and a plaque will be unveiled in his honour.
The remarkable event marks the first time the family and the school will officially come together in peace, following a bitter and protracted legal battle that pitted the two against each other for years.
Nathan's death would go on to spark one of the country's longest and most expensive legal stoushes.
Over 12 years, his parents Rita and George Chaina faced off against Scots College in court, after an inquest found the school was liable for Nathan's death because they had ignored the weather conditions and failed to prepare the students properly for the difficult conditions they faced.
The family sought $100 million in compensation for nervous shock and for the effect of their son's death on their cleaning products business.
The family was painted as greedy after rejecting many offers of compensation from the school over the years, while George Chaina was labelled "dishonest" and "inconsistent" in the evidence he gave.
The bitter lawsuit came to a dramatic end five years ago in 2014, when a damning judgement ordered the Chaina family pay the school $8 million towards its court costs, an amount far eclipsing the $530,000 they were awarded in compensation.
When the court case that had loomed large over his life for so long was finally over, Mathew said what he felt most was relief.
While Mathew said his parents sheltered him from the court case as much as possible, he and his family were left hurt and devastated by the comments made about his family.
"It was all over the news and it was basically the Chaina family hates Scots College. Scots College hates us. Everyone was saying that we were a greedy family and that we were just doing it for money," he said.
"We are not greedy. My brother died and it wasn't fair. Why did he deserve to lose his life? I can understand where mum and dad were coming from. They were hurt and had lost their son."
"I knew no amount of money wasn't going to make anything better for us. I knew that it wasn't going to bring Nathan back. I can't speak for everyone else, but in my opinion it was just a massive waste of everyone's time. That's just the way I see it. It was a shame it all turned out the way it did."
Mathew, who continued to attend the school after his brother's death and is still involved in the old boys community, said he first suggested the idea of a memorial for Nathan to school principal Ian Lambert last year and he hoped the event would help bring closure for everyone.
"I haven't got a grudge against the school. It's a way of moving forward and making a peaceful resolution with the school to remember my brother, because he never got to be remembered properly," Mathew said.
"My brother was 15 years old, he was kind and caring. He loved the school. He was determined to be a doctor and to succeed in life.
"He deserves to be remembered. Not for his name being dragged into a court case that got nowhere - to be remembered for who he was."
In an email to the school's old boys community, Dr Lambert said the ceremony, to be held on the school's Bellevue Hill grounds, would celebrate "the life of a Scots boy who loved his school".
Nathan was an enthusiastic member of the school pipe band, where he played the bagpipes, his brother said.
"I have still got his kilt and I will be wearing it to the service," he said.
Nathan's mother Rita, as well as many family and friends, are expected to attend the ceremony.
Contact reporter Emily McPherson at [email protected]