Search focuses on area north of New Plymouth

JO MOIR
Last updated 08:15 14/08/2012

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The search for the a missing trio presumed drowned at sea will focus on the area from the White Cliffs, north of Urenui, to New Plymouth.

At low tide, shortly after 1pm, Doc staff will search the White Cliffs on 4WD bikes.

Fisheries staff will search at Onaero and Doc staff on foot will search from Onaero to Back Beach.

Some local residents are also helping with the search north of New Plymouth.

A team continues to search the base of Paritutu Rock and at low tide several inflatable rescue boat crews and kayaks will go out.

Taranaki police search and rescue co-ordinator Sergeant Andrew Ross said a boat with a sonar electronic device will be searching the water.

The HNZ helicopter will also do a fly-over at low tide today, he said.

"Despite search numbers being scaled down we are continuing to cover a large area," Mr Ross said.

Sea and shoreline search continues

Sea and shoreline searches are continuing for three people missing after last week's Paritutu rock- climbing tragedy in New Plymouth.

Missing are students Brazilian national Felipe Martins De Melo, 17, Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye, 17, and their Topec instructor Bryce Jourdain, 42

Taranaki police search and rescue co-ordinator Sergeant Andrew Ross said crews using rubber boats were continuing to search the water, particularly around the Paritutu rock and Port Taranaki area.

Mr Ross said kayaks would be used to search later in the week if necessary.

Inspector Frank Grant said air searches have stopped and will only resume if police receive information about bodies in the water.

"We hope to get divers to the Paritutu rock base but it depends on swells and the breakwater," he said.

Yesterday, six teams, roughly a dozen people, searched the shoreline between Onaero and Tapuae, a few kilometres north of Oakura.

Mr Grant said most people at Paritutu rock when the accident happened have been interviewed by police.

The staff at Topec were expected to be interviewed yesterday.

"It does depend on the availability of lawyers and representatives for both Spotswood College and Topec," he said. "We've got an appreciation in our minds now of what happened on the rock that day but we're still collating the information."

New Plymouth Mayor Harry Duynhoven has been in regular contact with the families of the missing men.

Yesterday he said he was trying very hard to fit in with the wishes of the families.

"We have spoken about what we might be able to do for the families and their loved ones but at this stage it's too early to plan anything."

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Spotswood College and Topec have dealt with the situation extremely well, he said.

"I can't speak highly enough of the principal and students, especially the head boy and girl, and all the staff at Topec."

Mr Duynhoven said the family of Brazilian student, Felipe Melo, had been very appreciative of the community's support.

Brazil's ambassador to New Zealand, Eduardo Gradilone, visited New Plymouth on Sunday on behalf of the Brazilian president.

Maritime Radio is also doing its bit to help with the search.

An alert has gone out to all shipping off the New Plymouth coast to be on the lookout for the missing three, a Rescue Co-ordination Centre spokesman said yesterday.

The call, made at the request of police, was sent out to all shipping to report all sightings of significance off the New Plymouth port.

Attempts by Taranaki Daily News to contact Topec and Spotswood College principal Mark Bowden went unanswered.

- Taranaki Daily News

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