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Text Message Believed To Be From Missing Vessel

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand Media Release

Tuesday December 30, 2008, 8.00am

Second Text Message Believed To Be From Missing Vessel

Family members of a group of people missing in a boat off the Tauranga coast have reported receiving a second text message this morning from those on board seeking help.

Family have reported receiving a text message at about 6am today. However, efforts by rescuers to call and text those on board have been unsuccessful. Rescuers have also been in discussions with the mobile phone provider in an effort to narrow down the search area.

A Phillips Search and Rescue Trust aircraft from Taupo equipped with radar is currently searching for the group, with a Coastguard vessel searching the shoreline. Helicopters are also on standby to assist pending a break in the weather, which is forecast to improve later in the day. A shoreline search has also been started by Surf Lifesaving and Coastguard units.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) Search Controller Mike Roberts said while reports of a second text message from the group was encouraging news, it highlighted the importance of boaties carrying reliable communications equipment, such as marine VHF radios, emergency beacons and flares.

Weather in the area is currently poor, with rough seas and limited visibility. RCCNZ has assumed coordination of the search, which was initally launched by Tauranga Police after one of the people on board sent a text message to a family member at around 11.30am yesterday saying they were lost and asking for help.

Two adults and three children, aged 16, 12, and 11, are understood to be on the boat, and were thought to be on a snorkelling trip near Motunau Island when they became lost. It is not known whether the group were carrying a marine VHF radio or any other form of emergency communication equipment.

An overnight search by a Royal New Zealand Airforce P3 Orion using radar and other specilaised search equipment of a 300 square mile area failed to find any sign of the group.

Police and Coastguard vessels also spent most of yesterday searching for the group without success.


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