Weather hampers search for three

Search conditions are expected to worsen

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 15/08/2012
tdn coast stand
ANDY JACKSON
Search and rescue workers scour the area near Paritutu Rock yesterday.

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Weather and sea conditions are expected to worsen over the next few days, making visibility difficult for crews searching for bodies from the Paritutu rock tragedy.

It is now day eight of the search for missing students Felipe Martins De Melo, of Brazil, and Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye, who were both 17, and their Topec instructor Bryce Jourdain, 42.

The three have been missing at sea and are presumed drowned after a rock climbing exercise went wrong at Paritutu rock last week.

MetService is forecasting heavy rain through till the weekend and the swell is expected to rise to 2.5 metres over the next few days.

Taranaki police search and rescue co-ordinator Sergeant Andrew Ross said the weather is likely to get worse, reducing visibility.

"I've spoken with the families involved and they're all on board about what we're doing and why we will continue to scale things down," he said.

A similar number of searchers, roughly a dozen people, are expected to be back out today along with the dozens of private search parties helping out.

"It's great to have extra eyes out there, so having the community looking as well is really helpful," Mr Ross said.

Although the families of the missing are hurting and grieving, they are wanting to help with the search.

"We're doing what we can to point them in the direction of helpful search areas," he said.

"They want closure the same as we do."

Yesterday at low tide shortly after 1pm, Conservation Department staff searched the White Cliffs on 4WD bikes.

Fisheries staff searched at Onaero and DOC staff searched from Onaero to Back Beach on foot.

A team continues daily searches at the base of Paritutu rock and at low tide inflatable rescue boats and kayaks have been going out.

Mr Ross said a boat with a sonar electronic device was also used to search the water yesterday.

At low tide the HNZ helicopter did a low flyover of the coastline, but it is likely such air searches will stop in the coming days, he said.

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

"I want to stress that if anyone does see anything, they shouldn't approach any closer than necessary and they shouldn't touch anything - just call the police," he said.

Taranaki surf lifesaving club development officer Andy Cronin said two IRB crews continued to search the water yesterday around the Sugar Loaf Islands, Back Beach and the breakwater.

"Today the guys went to work in the morning and then came out searching at low tide after 1pm," he said.

"These guys are volunteers and their employers continue to be fantastic about giving them time to search."

Mr Cronin said his crew is doing their best to keep their heads up but it's not an easy task.

"They would dearly love to bring these guys home and that's what drives them to be out there every day," he said.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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