Body of missing soldier found

Police and Navy divers have this afternoon recovered a body believed to be that of soldier Private Michael Ross who has been missing in Lake Moawhango, near Waiouru, since last Tuesday.

Inspector Steve Mastrovich, Ruapehu Area Commander, said sonar equipment helped pinpoint the body which was found in about 40 metres of water about 2.30pm today. Family members have been notified of the find.

Divers and support craft from the Auckland Police Maritime Unit brought the body to the surface and ashore a short time later. The body has now been taken to Waiouru Military Camp and will then go to Palmerston North for a post-mortem.

Mr Mastrovich said police believed the body was that of Private Ross but it needed to be formally confirmed as part of the coronial process.

"This has been a very long and difficult week - for the family and friends of Private Ross and also for the many people who have assisted in the search," Mr Mastrovich said.

"Although we would have wished for a happier outcome, we are just pleased that in recovering the body we are able to give some comfort to those who are grieving.

"Changeable weather conditions, coupled with the size and depth of the search area has made this a very challenging operation for the divers.

"Specialist sonar equipment was needed along with Navy support to help identify areas of search interest and dive to the depths required. Police and New Zealand Defence Force personnel have worked tirelessly on this search and recovery mission.

"There has also been phenomenal support from Coastguard and other members of the community who have pitched in to help in a range of ways."

Police will continue their investigation on behalf of the coroner into the circumstances of how the soldier was lost overboard from an inflatable boat while on a training exercise.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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