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Update 7: Stewart Island SAR

Update 7: Stewart Island SAR

There is a limited search today for the four people still missing from the Easy Rider.

The search operation management team, made up of Police, SAR staff and local experts, says the operation is now in a limited continuous search phase.

This means that the team will continue to regularly receive and evaluate the latest information supplied from the Rescue Coordination Centre about tidal patterns, current movements and debris already located, to identify potential actions or directions for future searches.

This afternoon an aerial search is being conducted with a helicopter along the southern coast in an area roughly between Waipapa Point and Riverton. A vessel is also currently undertaking a search of the estuary area at the southern tip of Oreti Beach. Police have also this morning conducted a search of Oreti Beach using a 4WD vehicle.

Although there is little new information coming to hand, the operation team continues to be dedicated to doing the best job possible for the families. This includes the capability to mobilise a full capacity team should any new information come to hand.

The contribution of local experts has been invaluable to the search management team to ensure that every conceivable possibility has been looked at. The operation management team has also asked the local fishing community to report any information that they believe could be useful to the operation.

Police acknowledge the huge effort from the whole search team and in particular the many volunteers from the local commercial fishing community.

Police had hoped for a better outcome at this stage, and our thoughts and sympathies remain with all families involved.

Since Thursday afternoon, Police, SAR staff, the Navy, Riverton and Bluff Coast guards and members of the local commercial fishing fleet have put in around 52 hours of searching in the vicinity and wider locality of where the Easy Rider was found resting on the sea floor on Friday.

In total 27 vessels have participated in the search, with a maximum of 15 vessels at any one time.

The Navy Dive squad assisted by the Police Dive squad dived twice at the site yesterday, carrying out an extensive search of the vessel but found no sign of the missing people. Using a sonar unit they collected visual footage of 40,000 square metres and found nothing significant.

An aerial and sea search was also carried out on Saturday. A fixed wing aircraft conducted an aerial search of the mainland coast between an area of roughly Riverton and Waipapa Point. Two coastguard vessels also searched the mainland coast. The outer islands at Bluff - including the area around Ruapuke Island - were also searched. Nothing of significance was found.

Four bodies had previously been found during searches, one on Thursday and three on Friday. A survivor was also picked up on Thursday.

Yesterday the search was suspended because no new information had come to hand over the past two days.

This is obviously a very stressful time for the families and they have asked Police to pass on their request that the media respects their privacy during this very difficult time.

We continue to support the families with our iwi liaison officers and victim support teams.


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