Memorial held for Canadian couple
Haast residents have packed in to a local church to remember two young Canadians swept into a raging river by a landslide.
Six horses and quad bikes involved in the search for Connor Hayes, 25, and Joanna Lam, 24, formed part of a ceremonial parade before the emotional memorial service began at the Okuru Church at 11am, yesterday.
Inside Michael Hayes paid tribute to his son and girlfriend while Lorraine Tetreault, Hayes' wife, read a poem a friend in Canada had written. There were about 125 people at the service.
"There were not too many dry eyes. A lot of people came up to us after and told us they were quite moved," Hayes said this morning.
Connor and Joanna were last seen alive at Fox Glacier on September 10. Police believe the Canadian couple's rented campervan was hit by a landslide and swept into a raging river as they travelled through Haast Pass along State Highway 6 later that day.
Joanna's body has been found but Connor is still missing, presumed dead.
Michael Hayes and his wife have been in Haast since Wednesday after arriving from Ottawa late Tuesday night.
Weather has hampered their search efforts, but they have scoured the beach near Haast and visited the site of the deadly landslide. Today they will search the Haast River by jet boat and tomorrow they hope to take to the air in a helicopter.
While Hayes hoped to find Connor, the vast, rugged terrain meant it would be a miracle if his body was every recovered.
"It [his body] is a very small needle in a very big haystack."
However, meeting locals and retracing his son's steps had helped bring some closure.
"I'm really at a loss for words [to explain] how well we've been received [by Haast residents].
"I'm very, very grateful."
The couple leave New Zealand on Thursday morning.
Joanna's funeral will be held in Canada on October 19.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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