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Missing boatie's family speaks

JENNA LYNCH
Last updated 17:29 31/01/2013

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The family of missing boatie Tim Mair have described him as a hero, who likely drowned after struggling to keep his beloved grandson afloat.

The 54-year-old Katikati man's brother, Peter Mair said when a rogue wave capsized the 19ft boat Tim had taken his family out in on Monday his brother did his absolute best to hold his 7-year-old grandson's head above the water.

"He exhausted himself doing what he could to look after his grandson," he said. "He was very courageous and generous."

But the struggle to stay afloat in the water was proving too much for Tim, so his 15-year-old son took the 7-year-old boy from him and watched him tragically drift away. He has not been seen since and his family say they accept it's likely he drowned.

"My brother had lost the strength to hold on," Peter said.

The boat overturned crossing the bar between Bowentown and Matakana Island about 5.30pm.

The group of survivors spent up to two hours in the freezing water, clinging to the hull of the boat before they managed to swim to nearby Matakana Island where they flagged down a passing boat about 7.30pm.

"My brother had drifted away and disappeared," Peter said.

The Mair family is in mourning, but still out in force on the hunt for Tim's body.

I just hope that he's found, that's all," he said. "He's not with us anymore... I just hope he knows that the others survived."

While police say that Mr Mair's grandchild was the only one wearing a lifejacket, Peter said Tim's two of children , aged 23 and 15, along with a family friend aged 14 had lifejackets on while they were in the water, leaving only his brother without one.

Peter said his brother was a very experienced boatie, having grown up with a father that built boats.

He said the family was hurt by claims that Tim had been irresponsible carrying five people in what has been incorrectly described as a small boat.

"My brother was not irresponsible by putting five people in a 19ft boat," he said. "He's been boating for 30 years, so he's very comfortable with boats."

Peter said Tim was a beekeeper and orchardist who held his family closest to his heart and lived life to the fullest.

"He was somebody who would give things a real nudge," he said. "Family was very important to him." He said growing up Tim would be leading the way in boyish activities, which soon grew to a love of four-wheel driving and water.

"We were like chalk and cheese. He was like a toothed tiger and I was like a pussycat," he said.

He said the Mair family thanked all those who have volunteered and continue to volunteer in the search for Tim.

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