Missing Canadian tourist Connor Hayes' thigh bone found on West Coast

LandSAR searching the Haast River for missing tourist Connor Hayes three years after his campervan was washed away by a slip.

LandSAR searching the Haast River for missing tourist Connor Hayes three years after his campervan was washed away by a slip.

Michael Hayes waited three years for the phone call telling him his missing son's remains had been found.

Police revealed on Wednesday that a hunter had stumbled across one of Connor Hayes' thigh bones on the South Island's West Coast.

"It's as good an [outcome] as you can get from a tragic situation," Michael Hayes said from his home in Canada.

Canadian couple Joanna Lam, 24, and Connor Hayes, 25, died when their rental campervan crashed in the Haast River gorge ...

Canadian couple Joanna Lam, 24, and Connor Hayes, 25, died when their rental campervan crashed in the Haast River gorge in 2013.

Connor Hayes, 25, and his girlfriend Joanna Lam, 24 – both from Ontario – died when a landslide swept their campervan off State Highway 6, near Diana Falls in Haast Pass, in wild weather in September 2013.

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Lam's body was found several days later. A large scale search of the area, which lasted several weeks, found no trace of Connor Hayes. 

The wreckage of the campervan that Connor Hayes and Joanna Lam had rented.

The wreckage of the campervan that Connor Hayes and Joanna Lam had rented.

West Coast area commander Inspector Mel Aitken said a hunter found a thigh bone where the Haast and Burke rivers meet in August. 

A DNA analysis confirmed it belonged to Connor Hayes, which sparked another search on the Haast River on Sunday. 

"The search recovered a number of items of interest from the riverbed, but police are yet to confirm whether they belong to Mr Hayes," Aitken said. 

Michael Hayes travelled to New Zealand and unsuccessfully searched for his son's body. He said he was haunted by ...

Michael Hayes travelled to New Zealand and unsuccessfully searched for his son's body. He said he was haunted by thoughts of the couple's final moments.

"Anything, including bones, which is believed to belong to [Connor], will be released to his family in Canada in due course."

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Michael Hayes said the discovery was important for his family, particularly his son's five siblings, who were getting to the point where they could "regroup and carry on the best they can".

"It's something that we've waited for. It took maybe longer than we anticipated," he said.

Joanna Lam, right, had a job lined up at Nelson Hospital.

Joanna Lam, right, had a job lined up at Nelson Hospital.

Hayes and his wife, Lorraine Tetreault, travelled to New Zealand to search for his son shortly after his disappearance.

They removed a large stone from the Haast River and placed it in Okuru Cemetery as a memorial. 

Hayes said his son's thigh bone was found near where they took the stone from the river, which was "somewhat ironic".

"When we left [New Zealand] people said we won't forget Connor. True to their word they were successful." 

Hayes paid tribute to those who helped search for his son.

"There's no possible way as a parent I could sit in Canada and say not enough had been done [to find Connor]. We're grateful."

Hayes said a large memorial service was held for Connor Hayes in Canada in November 2013. "Anything that will be done from here on in will be private," he said.

"I think about him [Connor] all the time. I miss him a lot."


Hayes and Lam hired a campervan in Nelson about September 8, 2013. 

They travelled south to Haast on the main highway, stopping at Fox Glacier where they took a walk on the glacier with a guide. 

After discussing the possibility of accommodation at the Haast Motor Camp, the couple were seen travelling south in the campervan towards the Haast Pass on September 10. 

Weather in the area at the time was severe and some motorists turned back. 

Hayes and Lam continued along SH6 through the pass towards Wanaka. 

The road was closed a short time later.

The Canadian tourists were reported missing six days later, after Lam failed to turn up for her new job at Nelson Hospital. 

Search crews discovered the wreckage of their campervan in the Haast River on September 17.

Lam's body was found on the beach 6 kilometres north of the river mouth, 55km from the wreckage, on September 20.

At a coroner's inquest, concerns were raised about the length of time it took contractors to close the road. Radio communications in the area were affected by the remote location.

 - Stuff

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