Wife holds beach vigil for missing fisherman
The grieving wife of a man who disappeared at sea three weeks ago is refusing to leave the beach where he was last seen.
Tupara Kiel, Lola Kiel's husband of more than 50 years, went missing off the South Wairarapa coast on January 10 while going to set a crayfish pot in rough seas.
Mr Kiel's dog, Ice Cream, was found wet and roaming the beach, and his inflatable dinghy was later discovered by an airforce Orion nearly 70 kilometres out to sea. His body is yet to be found.
The official search for the 72-year-old was called off on January 13, but Mrs Kiel, family members and friends have set up camp on the beach, scouring up to 40km of coastline each day.
Residents from around Tora have also joined in, providing food and accommodation for the family as well as joining the search.
While the family had given up on finding Mr Kiel alive, his wife was desperate for "closure", son-in-law Ray Thompson said.
"Lola's not intending to have any memorial service for two years unless something turns up.
"She's said she's going to wait for two years before she gives up, she's determined."
Mrs Kiel and other family had now moved to a nearby camp ground, where they would stay for a further two weeks.
But the long vigil was starting to have an effect on her, said Mr Thompson , whose wife, Frances, is one of the Kiels' three children.
"She's holding up as well as can be expected, but the whole thing's taking its toll on her."
The family was appealing for any sightings of a lifejacket, which Mr Kiel had with him.
Depending on whether it was found north or south of Sandy Bay could provide a clue as to where his body went, and to whether he was wearing the lifejacket when he went into the water.
Mr Thompson said the lack of closure was "the hardest thing". "Someone saw a man lying down in a boat out there that day, so he might have had a heart attack, but we just don't know. We just don't know enough about any of it."
Nobody knew why Mr Kiel had gone to sea in "gale-force winds", he said.
Mr Kiel moved to Wairarapa in the 1960s from Rotorua, and was well known around Martinborough and the South Wairarapa coast. He was a kaumatua at Hau Ariki Marae.
Marae trust chairman Trevor Hawkins said Mr Kiel was a trustee as well as the marae's main speaker. "He was really respected, we're going to miss him."
He too hoped for a sighting. "You've got to find something for closure, even if it's just an oar. There's got to be something."
Mr Kiel left Sandy Bay, near Te Awaiti, about 11am on January 10. Helicopters, fishing boats and the police dive squad were involved before the search was called off three days later.
The Dominion Post