The Gap claims another victim

By Mike Dinsdale

One man is dead and another missing presumed drowned after two separate fishing-related incidents in Northland.

A 29-year-old Whangarei man has died after being washed off the rocks at notorious spot The Gap, at Taiharuru, yesterday after going fishing with his brother and another man.

And in the Far North, family and friends of a 48-year-old Hokianga man missing since going to set a fishing net last Tuesday will continue searching for him while official search efforts will be reviewed today or tomorrow.

Whangarei police Sergeant Stephanie Hudson said three men went fishing at The Gap, near Taiharuru, 32km north-east of Whangarei, in "rough conditions." One of the men was swept off the rocks by a wave about 1pm, Ms Hudson said, while his brother then jumped into the raging water to try to rescue him. She said the Northland Electricity rescue helicopter arrived at the scene within minutes and located the two men in the water.

One of the men was pulled out alive and received medical treatment at the scene, but the first man who was washed off the rocks could not be revived and was declared dead at the scene.

The man's name was not available at edition time as all his next of kin had not been informed of the death, which will be referred to the coroner.

Meanwhile, a 48-year-old father of three sons has not been seen since he is believed to have set a net to catch fish on a tidal flat at Motukauri, on the northern side of Hokianga Harbour, east of Kohukohu, about 3am last Tuesday.

A rahui has been placed on the area stretching from Rangi Pt to Motukaraka and will remain in place until he is found.

The man's partner said she wanted him back - regardless of any condition he may be in - so his family could start the grieving process.

She said her partner, and father of their boys aged 14 and 11, was in a great space in recent weeks after discovering his birth family - he was raised by whangai parents - and had met his 18-year-old son from another relationship for the first time recently. "He was in such a good space.

"He'd just discovered seven brothers and sisters and all these aunties and uncles he never knew he had. All these really good things were happening ... we're going to continue to look for him until he's found," the woman said.

She said her partner was a hard-working man who was devoted to their two sons and would do anything for people.

While the man went missing on Tuesday morning, his absence was not noted until later; family and friends searched for him the next day and found his net still set, about 10m into the harbour on the tidal flat. The Police Search And Rescue team was also called in and a spotter plane was sent up to try to find the man, but to no avail.

About 40 people were involved in the search, which would continue today.

Northland's drowning toll for 2013 officially stands at six with the death of the man at Taiharuru yesterday, one more than the whole of 2012.

On June 1, last year, 18-year-old Steven Gemmell was left clinging to a rock after being smashed by 4m-high waves and only cheated death after his mates risked their lives to haul him to safety after being washed off rocks at The Gap, at Taiharuru.

The conditions then were similar to yesterday's.

- Northern Advocate

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