Father's hope for missing son
All Doug Hayward can do is pray for his son Kevin who walked into the bush on Monday and has not come out.
"I hope he's alive, but I don't think he is," Mr Hayward said last night.
Doug and his four brothers spent yesterday scouring their segment of a 20-square kilometre area of the "Tokoroa Pines" alongside nearly 50 police and LandSar volunteers.
It's broken hill country of dense bush scarred with sheer bluffs, gullies and cliffs.
The Youthtown rescue helicopter, search dogs and the Waikato River harbourmaster have also been searching.
Fog hung over the team base beside the Waikato River yesterday until a clear blue sky broke through in the afternoon.
Perfect rescue weather.
But as the sun sank, there was still no word of Kevin Hayward.
"You've got to be realistic," Mr Hayward said. "For him not to make a noise and not to fire a shot, or not to make a fire – even if you've got a broken leg you can always light a fire – it's uncharacteristic.
"But my gut feeling is that he has fallen over and knocked himself unconscious but I don't want to think that is what he has done."
Mr Hayward, a 41-year-old single man from Ohaupo, hasn't been seen since Monday when he parked on the eastern end of the Waipapa Dam north of Mangakino and set off into the bush for a lone one-day pig hunt with his five dogs.
He wasn't reported missing until Mighty River dam workers noticed his 1997 Nissan ute was still parked up on Tuesday, after arriving at 10am the previous day.
All five dogs had GPS registered collars often used by hunters to find their dogs after they have bailed up a pig but can be tracked only if the GPS co-ordinates are known.
One of the dogs was also seen around the vehicle on Monday afternoon, while a second was found on Wednesday afternoon, the first full day of searching, on the opposite side of the river about 1km upstream.
It's highly unlikely the dog ran over the dam past Mr Hayward's ute, Senior Constable Barry Shepherd said.
"The theory is that he could have been chasing a pig, or the dogs were, and the pig jumps in the river and the dogs follow it and one of the dogs ends up swimming across the river."
Searchers continued to scour the riverbanks south of the dam until dark last night.
Mr Shepherd said they've never conducted a search and rescue in the popular hunting area before.
"The bush goes right through to Tokoroa. There's native bush on these rock faces. There's bluffs, there's gullies, there's gorges. There's flat spots. It's not huge country but it's gnarly. There's some nasty bluffs."
The search team split the area into segments which were assigned to each group. But the undergrowth was thick – it would be easy to miss someone just metres away.
Mr Shepherd was disappointed that they didn't locate Kevin yesterday.
"No clues we can definitely link to him. We're finding dogprints, footprints. We're finding some muesli bar wrappers but nothing we can link to him."
Search and rescue will be back today with a reduced team.
Doug will again make the trip south from Hamilton and help search for his son, who he taught how to hunt in these hills when he was a youngster.
"He was pretty familiar with this place. He's pretty much grown up around this area. So he knows the bluffs, but you can always get caught out, no matter how good you are.
"Kevin was a hunter and fisherman at heart. Hunting, that's all he does."
Kevin had been out of work for a while but Mr Hayward said the experienced bushman could get by on the smell of an oily rag.
And if the searchers give up all hope and abandon the rescue, Mr Hayward will keep searching.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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