Teen missing at sea in Mt Maunganui

Search underway at Mount Maunganui for a teenager missing off Leisure Island. The teen was swept off the rocks by a large wave yesterday evening 24 January 2016 Bay of Plenty Times Photograph by G
Search underway at Mount Maunganui for a teenager missing off Leisure Island. The teen was swept off the rocks by a large wave yesterday evening 24 January 2016 Bay of Plenty Times Photograph by G

UPDATED: 1:04pm: The family of Hamish Rieger, who was killed after being swept off the rocks at Leisure Island last night, have thanked those who helped in the search.

Hamish's parents, Greg and Donna said: "We really appreciate the efforts of our surf lifesaving friends, the police and everyone involved for bringing our son back to us.

"Getting him back means a huge amount to us; now we'd respectfully request space so we can concentrate on supporting each other through this time."

A member of the public spotted his body at about 11am today, with surf lifesavers and Coastguard helping retrieve him.

Hamish is a member of the Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service and is an experienced event guard at regional and national surf sports events.

MMLS president Brent Warner said the club has pulled together and younger club members were being supported.

"The Rieger family is hugely involved in our club and Hamish was a talented young lifeguard in his own right, who was on patrol earlier in the day," Mr Warner said.  "This is an extremely traumatic time for all club members, but doing all we possibly can to look after one of our lifeguarding families."
Police also wished to express their appreciation all those who were involved in the Search especially the Coastguard and members of Surf Life Saving NZ.

Inspector Karl Wright-St Clair, acting Area Commander for Western bay Police said: "Hamish and his family have contributed a great deal to the Community through their service to Surf Lifesaving and our thoughts are with the family at this difficult time".

12:21: Police have confirmed they have found the body of the teenager swept off the rocks at Leisure Island and have now reopened the Mauao base track.

The body will formally be identified by family.

UPDATED: 11:32: Our reporter at the scene says police have just showed up at the Mount Maunganui Surf Club, hopped onto the back of quad bike with some, lifeguards and headed to the Mauao base track.

Police and lifeguards during the search for the body of a missing teen in Mount Maunganui. Photo/George Novak
Police and lifeguards during the search for the body of a missing teen in Mount Maunganui. Photo/George Novak

11.11: A reporter at the scene of the search for teen swept off the rocks at Leisure Island has reported a sudden flurry of activity.

All the tracks around Mauao have been closed and people are being cleared from the track.

9:28: Police are asking anyone near Mount Maunganui, either on land or at sea, to keep an eye out for the teenager who was swept out to sea off Leisure Island last night.

A police spokesman asked people "to be vigilant and report any possible sighting on the young man".

At the time he was wearing a pair of Dark Blue shorts.

Moturiki Island was closed to the public last night but the track is open again this morning and police and council are asking people to stay on the tracks due to the surf conditions.

7.33am: Rescuers are this morning continuing their search for a teenager swept off the rocks at Leisure Island last night.

About six IRBs are on the water searching around Leisure Island, the beach and out towards Rabbit Island. They were also starting to search further east.

Leisure Island is still closed with security guards placed at the entrance.

Local woman Erica Devoy was on Leisure Island with her husband and two children when the boy was swept away.

The waves were "so agressive" the family decided to walk out to the end of the island after dinner to watch them crash against the rocks.

Surf lifesavers in IRBs search for a teenager missing at Mount Maunganui. PHOTO/JULIET ROWAN
Surf lifesavers in IRBs search for a teenager missing at Mount Maunganui. PHOTO/JULIET ROWAN

Others were on the island doing the same thing, including a group of three boys who were standing on the rocks near the blowhole.

"They were challenging the waves. The waves were coming, there was no way it was going to reach them," she said.

Then a particularly big wave came through and the water swept up around their feet.

"I said to my husband, 'we should say something to them'...this big wave came up and it looked fine but then the back of the wave hit and they were just completely covered. When it went back there were only two boys."

Mrs Devoy said the drop off the front of the rock where the teenager would have fallen was about 2m.

"The two boys came up. They were crying. They were in shock," she said.

Her husband tried to peer down to make sure the boy wasn't stuck while others called 111.

"It's insane that an innocent wave just took him. They were boys being boys.

"I just wish I'd said something. It's quite sad. It's just crazy."

Several hours after the search began last night Tauranga's TrustPower TECT helicopter was pulled off the search as conditions had become too dangerous.

"At this stage the search had been unsuccessful and we have lost too much light," pilot Todd Dunham said. "We have just got back [to base] now."

But a water search continued.

Police, coastguard and surf lifesavers continued to frantically search the area but began to wind down about 12.45am.

"Search and Rescue and Coastguard have pretty much wound down for the evening and are putting plans together for tomorrow morning," a police spokesman told the Herald on Sunday late last night.

He said the search would resume at first light.

"In terms of actually searching, there's not much more that can be done tonight," the spokesman said.

"We do have security guards in place along the area where he went missing just in case there's any developments overnight."

EARLIER: The search continues for a teen missing at sea.

The teen, who was sitting on rocks with friends, was swept into the sea by a large wave and lost sight of at about 7pm.

Police, coastguard and surf lifesavers are searching the area.

The sea was described as choppy.

The boys family and friends are being assisted by victim support volunteers during the search.

Police have closed access to the island and a helicopter is circling above the island, it said.

A rescue chopper searching for the teen boy after he was swept from the rocks at Mt Maunganui. Photo / Lauren Hines
A rescue chopper searching for the teen boy after he was swept from the rocks at Mt Maunganui. Photo / Lauren Hines

Police, St John Ambulance and lifeguards are at the scene.

This morning NZME's Bay of Plenty Times reported that large surf would be coming into all of the Bay of Plenty beaches this weekend.

It said mammoth surf powerful enough to snap surfboard leg ropes was sparking rescues and warnings for beach goers to be careful in the water.

One surfer got into trouble in the surf yesterday at Mount Main Beach after his leg rope snapped and his board was ripped away from him. A friend, who was surfing nearby, swam over to help him back to shore.

Allan Mundy, Lifesaving Services and Education manager, said they had postponed a junior event because of the surf size.

"It's a good indication it's [the surf] big, especially for little people. We strongly advise any families who come down to the beach to swim between the flags. That's going to be critical this weekend."

Mr Mundy said people had to be aware when the surf was as big as it was, the rips would be big too.

"We have massive sets coming through so it often catches people out. One minute they are in waist deep water and a set will come in and all of a sudden, the depth of the water will be over their head. That is when they get sucked out to sea."

Mr Mundy advised people to swim well within their depths and between the flags.
"It's going to be critical for safety."

Mount Maunganui clubhouse manager Glenn Bradley said it was certainly one of the biggest swells in any given year.

"What's interesting with this one is we are looking at seeing prolonged surf coming through. We are expecting the surf to hold right through to at least Tuesday next week before it starts to back off."

Surf was anticipated to grow bigger than 2m with conditions only suitable for advanced and expert surfers, he said.

Mr Bradley said beach goers were swimming yesterday but staying in very shallow patrolled areas.

"A lot of water is moving around with these large waves; it tends to sweep along the beach and move out in rips. People need to be wary of that."

With the big swells, big rips would come too, he said.

"Quick forming, quick moving and changing [rips]. It is a weekend to be very conservative. Swim between the flags, stay nice and shallow," he said.

A witness, Lauren Hines, said rescue services were still searching for the teen.

"We knew something something don't know actually what happened," she said.

"The helicopter was just hovering around Leisure island and it was obviously looking looking for someone. Two lifeboats could also be seen."

She said Police had cordoned off island while the search was underway.

A Mount Maunganui resident, Sarsha Younger, said the waves looked quite "violent".

"The tide is quite high and it is quite dark so it is difficult to see anything. The waves are rough. Normally the waves aren't this close together."

She said Police were no longer at the scene.

Earlier, a 53-year-old man died following a swimming accident at Long Beach in Russell, Bay of Islands.

Emergency services were called to the scene at 4pm after the man got into difficulties swimming while body surfing. He died at the scene despite efforts to resuscitate him.

Police are investigating the incident.

Long Beach resident, Steve Rawlings, said the man had been found facedown in the water.

"A man was pulled out of the water. I believe he was found face down in the water and pulled out by his family and then he was in the ambulance," he said.

"Fire trucks were there blocking the road off and stopping people from going further down the beach."

Mr Rawlings said he had walked to the beach after hearing fire trucks racing past his home.

He said the man had already been placed into the ambulance when he arrived.

"There were two fire trucks, an ambulance and two cop cars down there."

He said the beach had been really busy because "there was a wee bit of surf there and people were body boarding".

Mr Rawlings said the beach was normally quite calm.

An eye witness said the man been given CPR on the beach by an female off-duty ambulance officer.

He said she was assisted by two males who were taking turns to try and resuscitate the man.

"They were giving him CPR for at least 10 minutes before the ambulance arrived and then at least another five minutes after they arrived," he said.

The man said he had been at the beach when he saw someone doing CPR on the beach just above the waterline.

"Police arrived first and then ambulance then the two fire trucks. There were a lot of people standing around shocked.

"It wasn't huge surf and there was heaps of kids out in the water and they were all doing fine. [I don't know] if he just got out of his depth or in trouble or something else happened."

He said he believed the man and his family were from Auckland.

- NZ Herald

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