Search for body of kneeboarder to resume today

NEIL RATLEY AND ALEX FENSOME
Last updated 05:00 14/01/2013

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The search for the body of Blake McKenzie Sinclair, the 18-year-old missing after falling from a kneeboard into the swollen Clutha River on Saturday, will continue this morning.

Balclutha police Sergeant Craig Dinnissen said the search, in which more than 100 people had scoured the riverbanks, was now focused on finding Mr Sinclair's body.

"[The search] has now moved into the recovery phase," he said.

The police national dive squad has been called in to help.

Mr Sinclair, of Clydevale, failed to surface after falling from a kneeboard about 3.30pm on Saturday near the Waitahuna confluence area of the Clutha River.

Mr Dinnissen said the family had been kneeboarding on the Clutha with their sons when Mr Sinclair fell off the kneeboard and did not surface.

The river was running extremely high and dirty, with a lot of debris, after heavy rain last week, he said.

Asked if it was too dangerous to be in the water at the time, Mr Dinnissen said without having been there he could not comment.

A family member, who identified herself as Mr Sinclair's grandmother, told The Southland Times yesterday afternoon his parents were not available for comment.

They were helping with the search for him, she said.

Mr Dinnissen said nearly 100 people including police resumed the search at 7.30am yesterday after searching into Saturday night.

Teams on foot and in boats were in the area conducting the search, he said.

"We have nine foot teams totaling 37 people and 13 boats on the water with 41 people," he said.

The search will continue today.

Following the accident, immediate efforts by those on board failed to find Mr Sinclair and police were called, he said.

The Dunedin rescue helicopter was dispatched with a paramedic and swift-water specialist staff on board.

Six jet boaters assisted in the search on Saturday and continued to comb the river until 9pm.

The family also had the assistance of a friend's helicopter which was used to search areas downstream of the last reported sighting, Mr Dinnissen said.

Efforts were hampered by the high level of the river and the poor visibility as a result of spilling from the headwaters.

Mr Sinclair's family declined to comment last night.

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- The Southland Times

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