Body recovery hopes look slim

VICKI WATERHOUSE
Last updated 12:00 04/05/2012

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Hope is all but lost for the recovery of the body of a Fijian man who went missing off the Tararua coast.

The family of Eroni Ravaga-Gaunavou, 22, are set to fly home to Fiji tonight after spending two weeks in New Zealand.

Mr Ravaga-Gaunavou went under the water off Akitio Beach and failed to resurface on April 9.

He was living in Pongaroa and played rugby for the Puketoi Rugby Club.

An extensive police search was conducted, with the aid of Land Search and Rescue, which involved combing the coast up to 20 kilometres in each direction from where he was last seen.

A helicopter was also used during the search.

When the official search stopped a week later, people from Akitio and Pongaroa continued with an organised roster for a further week.

Senior Constable Dave Kirk, of Pongaroa police, said the community was upset they were not able to find Mr Ravaga-Gaunavou.

"[After] the amount of effort they've put in, they're quite disappointed we haven't been able to reach a satisfactory conclusion," Mr Kirk said.

The coastline was inaccessible by foot in some parts and it was possible the body would never be found.

"As time goes on chances dwindle of him being found," Mr Kirk said.

Mr Ravaga-Gaunavou's parents flew in from Fiji two weeks ago.

Mr Kirk said Mr Ravaga-Gaunavou's father went up in a helicopter as part of the search.

"He got an overview of the whole scenario," Mr Kirk said.

He said the Ravaga-Gaunavou family's Christian faith had helped them through the past few weeks.

Mr Ravaga-Gaunavou's father is a minister in Fiji.

"They'd come to terms with what had happened and are very grateful and thankful to the community for the effort we made."

The parents were believed to be flying out of the country this evening.

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- Manawatu Standard

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