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Wanaka search and rescue update

DATE: 2 NOVEMBER 2008

Wanaka search and rescue update

Aerial, water and shoreline searches are continuing on and around Lake Wanaka for missing helicopter pilot Morgan Saxton.

Nine vessels, two helicopters and three land-based search teams are currently combing an area around Mou Waho (Pigeon) Island on Lake Wanaka in an attempt to locate Mr Saxton, 31, of Haast.

Rescue Coordination Centre NZ (RCCNZ) launched a Search and Rescue operation to find Mr Saxton after he was reported overdue about 8pm yesterday while on a flight to Wanaka. The Robinson R22 helicopter he was flying was last sighted north of Wanaka.

RCCNZ Search and Rescue Officer Mike Roberts said search efforts were being focused around the area where debris, now confirmed to be from the missing helicopter, had been found.

“An intensive search for Mr Saxton is still underway, with nine vessels, two helicopters and three land-based search teams currently combing the area.”

Mr Roberts said a search by a night-vision-equipped helicopter last night had located a pilot’s helmet, flight jacket and gear bag, floating just north of the island about 8.15pm.

Further items, including a floor mat, first aid kit and helicopter seat-back had been found on the eastern shoreline of the lake north of the first batch of debris at 8.35am today.

Mr Roberts said an oil slick had also been spotted on the water near the island at 10.30am today. The helicopter has not been located.

Weather conditions in the area are fine and clear for searching.

MEDIA NOTE: A NO-FLY ZONE COVERING LAKE WANAKA (INCLUDING THE SHORES OF THE LAKE) AND UP TO 2000 FEET IS IN PLACE UNTIL 9.00PM TODAY. MEDIA ARE ASKED TO RESPECT THIS ZONE FOR SAFETY REASONS.

ENDS

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