Search for missing rock climbers called off

An Air Force helicopter was used to help during the Paritutu search. The search has now been called off.
An Air Force helicopter was used to help during the Paritutu search. The search has now been called off.

The search for two men still missing after the Paritutu rock climbing tragedy has officially been called off.

After 21 days of intensive searching by police, search and rescue, surf lifesavers, the New Zealand Navy and Army, Wellington police divers and the public the decision has been made to call it quits.

Taranaki search and rescue Sergeant Andrew Ross said it has been so long since the August 8 rock climbing tragedy that the bodies of the missing could now be anywhere.

Spotswood College students Felipe Melo and Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye, both 17, and their Topec instructor Bryce Jourdain, 42, were swept to sea earlier this month while rock climbing at Paritutu. Brazilian student, Felipe, was found near Paritutu six days after the tragedy and his funeral was held at his school hall on Saturday.

Mr Ross said since August 8 there has only been one day searchers haven't gone out, which was two days before Felipe was found.

"We have covered so much of the coast and sea and nothing has turned up," he said. "We've reached a point that we've done everything we can."

The New Plymouth police area commander Blair Telford agreed with Mr Ross' decision to end the search and yesterday it was officially called off. "If something comes up we will act on that but until that time we won't be doing any formal searches."

Private searches were continuing yesterday.

The New Plymouth District Council has reopened the summit tract at Paritutu Rock after it was closed three weeks ago following the tragedy.

Taranaki Daily News