Police hopeful of finding lost diver
Police say they are hopeful a 24-year-old New Plymouth man missing off Wellington’s west coast will be found alive.
Rescue teams continued to search throughout Tuesday for the overdue free diver along Wellington’s western coast.
The search was called off for the day about 5pm.
The man was visiting Wellington when he went spear fishing alone off the rugged popular dive spot on Monday afternoon but did not return.
He is described as a tall man of athletic build, with mid-length blonde hair. He was wearing a black wetsuit with camouflage print on the sleeves and lower half of the suit.
Inspector Neil Banks told a media conference on Tuesday afternoon that conditions were calm when the man went missing, and those conditions had continued.
The search is expected to continue on Wednesday morning if he is not found before dark.
Wellington spearfisher Tom Moody, who joined in the search on Tuesday morning, said the spearfishing community was a ‘‘very close-knit group’’. He had dived with the missing man on several occasions and he always kept within his limits.
It was unlikely the man had done anything silly, and ‘‘something must have gone wrong’’.
Moody said the hardest part of the search was feeling helpless and that there was little he could do.
Banks said the missing man had three to four years of free diving experience and had dived in the area two to three times a week when he was in the region.
The crew of the Wellington police maritime unit’s Lady Elizabeth recovered a number of items, a few hundred metres offshore, believed to belong to him, including a blue spear gun, a yellow diver’s float, and a yellow catch bag.
Other items believed to belong to the man were found where he is thought to have entered the water.
The diver, who had been expected to return about 4pm on Monday but did not make contact with his family or partner. He had been in the water just off Makara Beach, between Wharehou Bay and Pipinui Point.
His car was found at the beach. On Tuesday official searchers – the Westpac rescue helicopter, Lady Elizabeth, land searchers, and the police dive squad, were joined by locals in boats, as well as private divers.
‘‘In terms of foot searching it’s very challenging, a lot of the bays are difficult to climb down onto. Our land search teams that have been out today have had a jolly hard day’s search,’’ Banks said.
Residents gathered to offer support, and a barbecue and buttered scones appeared.
Police said they were continuing to liaise with the family on the progress of the search.
A family member said on Tuesday afternoon that he wanted to thank all the search teams and volunteers who had helped so far.
The missing man was doing what he loved, he said.
Family, friends and Wellingtonians watched as the search continued throughout Tuesday.