Dog swims to shore, man still missing

TRACEY CHATTERTON
Last updated 12:29 11/01/2013

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His dinghy has been found but rescue teams are still searching for a man missing off the south Wairarapa coast.

A 72-year-old man, believed to have been blown out to sea at Sandy Bay, near Te Awaiti, has been missing for more than 24 hours.

The man went to check his crayfish pot in a small inflatable dinghy about 11am yesterday, a Maritime New Zealand spokesman said.

A fisherman alerted police to an empty car, boat trailer and quad bike about 8.30pm.

The dinghy was found 68km offshore by an Air Force Orion aircraft at about 7pm, after a 13-hour search.

Rescue Coordination Centre mission co-ordinator Keith Allen praised the Orion crew for finding the  2 - 3m inflatable boat.

"They have searched thousands of square kilometres and to find a boat that small is a tremendous effort."

The man's dog, which he took with him on the boat, was found on the beach this morning after swimming back to shore.

A search involving the Orion, helicopters, two fishing boats, and teams on land scouring the coastline began at 6am this morning.

Mr Allen said the man was known to be wearing a wetsuit and lifejacket.

"We are searching the inshore area to check he is not clinging to crayfish pots, and the Orion is also looking checking an area up to 90km [50 nautical miles] offshore," he said.

Tomorrow the Police Dive Squad will search Sandy Bay near the man’s crayfish pot at the mouth of the bay.  A further coastal search will also be undertaken.

An update was expected at noon tomorrow, provided there were no further developments.

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- The Dominion Post

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