Updated: Search for missing fisherman continues

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Drowning of Fisherman at Kauri Point. Photo/Andrew Warner.
Drowning of Fisherman at Kauri Point. Photo/Andrew Warner.

A search will continue today for an Auckland man who went missing after jumping into the sea to retrieve his fishing rod in the Bay of Plenty yesterday.

The 40-year-old man disappeared after he went into the sea from a jetty when a stingray pulled his fishing rod in at Kauri Point, north of Katikati, about 2pm, police said.

About seven people, including the man's wife, watched helplessly from the Kauri Point jetty near Katikati as he disappeared under the water about 2pm yesterday.

Senior Constable Lindsay Freeman said the man and his wife had been fishing from the end of the jetty.

"He's jumped off the wharf to retrieve his fishing rod and reel. He's got into difficulty in the channel because it's an outgoing tide,'' he said.

A blue buoy no more than 200m from the jetty marked the spot where he was last seen.

Mr Freeman said the man had been caught in the strong current and was unable to stay afloat.

"It was at that point when the current really starts to pick up with the outgoing tide," Mr Freeman said. "People just don't realise the current until they get into trouble."

More than two hours after the man plunged into the water his distraught wife could be seen sitting on end of the wharf as a victim support worker tried to comfort her.

Local residents John and Brendan were among those who volunteered to help search for the man.

"I live up the top of the hill and we heard the screams," John said.

"My wife heard (someone) say, 'my husband is drowning'. She ran down here and I went to get the tractor."

By the time the two men made it to the beach with their tractor and boat there was no sign of the man.

"We were probably first on the scene but we didn't see anything," Brendan said. "The current is very strong. It really cranks out.

"Apparently he tried to swim back towards the jetty but all he had to do was swim in 20m and he would have been able to touch the ground."

The pair launched their boat and began to search for the man but could not locate him.

Police said a number of other people had volunteered their time and their boats to help scour the area but were not able to find the man's body.

The Trustpower TECT rescue helicopter was called to search the area by air but was stood down after 40 minutes.

Local residents, the coastguard and surf lifesavers also spent the afternoon searching the murky water while police and volunteers conducted a shoreline search.

The police national dive squad arrived early yesterday evening to help.

The search was suspended late last night and was to resume, with police divers, at 8am today.

It is the third-water related death in the region in as many days. Palmerston North woman Catherine Michell Hintz died after being found lying at the bottom of a Tauranga motel pool on New Year's Eve and Blair Kiddle died during a diving trip near Motiti Island on January 1.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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