Sixth day of search for missing Tongariro men identified further areas of interest, police say
Maraea Ngoronoa, mother of lost Palmerston North labourer Hākopa Ngaronoa , is still holding out hope he will be found alive as the sixth day searching draws to a close.
Hākopa, 26, and his friend Vincent Taumira, 21, have been missing in the Tongariro National Park since Saturday, August 12, when the pair allegedly fled from a police chase on the Desert Rd.
Land Search and Rescue crews and police have been searching dense scrub since Sunday. Members of both mens' families have also joined the search.
Inspector Tony Jeurissen said further planning had been carried out on Friday ahead of the continued search over the weekend.
"Unfortunately they have still not been found, but today's work has identified further areas of interest," Jeurissen said on Friday night.
The major search operation is set to continue on Satuday morning, with more LandSAR volunteers coming on to help, he said.
"We all remain determined to bring these two men home to their whanau".
Maraea said her son was much-loved, and she had been overwhelmed with offers from as far as Australia to help find the men.
"Everyone's wanting to pitch in," she said.
"That kind of love is overwhelming and it's hard to describe."
"Family members are biting at the bit to come help every day, but we have to let Search and Rescue do their job," she said.
The men were last heard from on Sunday, August 13, when one briefly rang police to ask for help. It is believed the cellphone ran out of battery.
Earlier, Jeurissen said the search area was narrowed each day, as more items were found by rescue crews.
"It's not a huge area, but the scrub is thick, dense and uninviting," Jeurissen said.
Kaimanawa Forest Park and the Tongariro National Park are part of the search area. But the "area of interest" is between the Desert Rd and the Tongariro River, near the Pillars of Hercules gorge, with Tree Trunk Gorge Rd at the southern end, he said
On Friday, four members of the police national dive squad were called in.
LandSAR operations manager Dave Comber said the divers would search the streambeds.
"A lot of the search teams have not been able get into the streams themselves because there are some quite steep banks," Comber said.
"In this pumice country, a stream tends to cut its way down, so you can actually fall into it and foliage can come over the top and you can't actually see into it from the top," he said.
"So the idea is, these guys with their wetsuits, they can actually get down to the stream itself and look into it.
"That just helps us to identify there's nothing in there and clear them out," he said.
Police have been updating the families on the search at the end of each day.
Hākopa works as a forklift driver in Palmerston North, Maraea said.
"He loves working and he loves manual work," she said. "He was baling hay at the age of 16."
Maraea said her son was a "bullheaded, strong minded person" when it came to protecting family and friends.
"He has a soft side to him – a nurturing, loving side.
"The friends he has – the gangs and that – they don't know about that side of him," she said.
"He's an awesome son: respectful to his elders, loyal to his friends, loving to his family.
"I live in hope, because that's all I've got left, beside love."
Police Senior Sergeant Tony Jeurissen said police will continue to liaise with the whānau of the missing men. The latest information was shared in a meeting in Turangi on Friday morning.