Dinghy tragedy: Boy's body found

Latu Paasi mourns for her husband and son that are missing, as she is comforted by her family at the old Mangere Bridge this morning. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Latu Paasi mourns for her husband and son that are missing, as she is comforted by her family at the old Mangere Bridge this morning. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Police searching for a father and his young son who went missing when their dinghy overturned in Manukau Harbour yesterday have found the body of the 7-year-old boy.

The boy's body was recovered from the water under Mangere Bridge about 7.15pm.

Police had called off the search for the father's body for the night but would resume in the morning.

Earlier, the grieving wife and mother of the father and son missing in Manukau Harbour said she blames herself for the boat accident.

"It's all my fault. I just bought the boat for a present for my husband," Latu Paasi, wife and mother of the missing man and child, told television journalists at the scene. "... He wanted to come out here and test it to see if it was all right."

The Mangere man, 45, and his 7-year-old son had been missing since their aluminium dinghy tipped over under the old Mangere Bridge about 2pm, sending a group of five into the water. Rescuers pulled three children to safety.

The search for the missing pair resumed at 7am, involving air, land and water efforts. Debris and clothing were found before 11am.

Latu Paasi was this morning standing vigil at the waterfront.

She didn't know they had taken the boat out yesterday until she got home after running some errands.

She went down to Mangere Bridge, her husband's favourite fishing spot, and learnt what happened.

It was not until she got to Middlemore Hospital that she found out her son and husband were still missing.

"I just want them home," she said today.

The youngest of the children plucked to safety, a five-year-old, remains in a critical condition in Starship Children's Hospital. The other two are stable.

Several bystanders, including a firefighter who jumped into the water to help save the group, were taken to hospital - many of them showing signs of mild hypothermia after only a short time in the water.

The Mangere family had only recently bought the secondhand dinghy and were trying it out for the first time.

Inspector Hewett dismissed suggestions a missing bung from the boat may have contributed to the incident as "complete speculation".

An investigation of the vessel was underway and the results were expected later today.

Inspector Hewett hoped people would learn from the "avoidable tragedy" by wearing lifejackets and taking necessary safety precautions when heading onto the water.

Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Matt Claridge told Newstalk ZB this morning that the Manukau Harbour is renowned as a fishing spot.

"Like most good fishing spots it has fairly variable conditions. It can be quite risky," he said.

"The tide can move really fast and ... can be actually a fairly dangerous environment to be in."

- APNZ

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