Po­lice hope­ful of find­ing lost diver

Taranaki Daily News - - News -

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.

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

Fam­ily, friends and Welling­to­ni­ans watched as the search con­tin­ued through­out Tues­day.

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