Families of missing trio speak

The missing are (from left) Bryce John Jourdain, 42, Joao Felipe Martin and Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye, both 17. Photos / Supplied
The missing are (from left) Bryce John Jourdain, 42, Joao Felipe Martin and Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye, both 17. Photos / Supplied

The wife of a 42-year-old father who has been missing off the New Plymouth coast since Wednesday, presumed drowned, after he jumped into the ocean to save two teenagers, says he was passionate about seeing young people be their best.

Bryce John Jourdain and 17-year-olds Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye and Brazilian exchange student Joao Felipe Martins De Melo disappeared during a climbing expedition at Paritutu Rock on Wednesday afternoon.

The Spotswood College students fell into the water, and Mr Jourdain, a Taranaki Outdoor Pursuits and Education Centre (TOpec) instructor, dived in to try to save them.

An extensive search has failed to find any sign of the missing three and police this afternoon said the search would now be scaled back.

Mr Jourdain's wife, Robyn, today issued a statement which said Mr Jourdain was an "amazing" father to Isaac, 12 and Grace, 9.

The pair married nearly 18 years ago and lived in Auckland for five years before moving to Wanganui.

They then moved to New Plymouth 18 months ago for Mr Jourdain to take up his job at TOpec.

"We could not believe when we first moved to New Plymouth - complete strangers we would meet and they would say "Welcome to Taranaki".

"It's incredible the sense of pride in this beautiful place. Bryce was very quickly becoming Taranaki Hard Core."

Mr Jourdain was all about his family, and focused on the positive.

"He wants to make a real difference in people's lives and particularly loves working with young people."

He was always encouraging young people to be the best they can and stay true to who they were.

"Bryce recently updated the screensaver on our computer at home and it reads: 'Stop trying to fit in when you were born to stand out.'

"This is such a fitting statement for such an amazing husband, dad, son, brother, friend and workmate."

Mr Kahukaka-Gedye's father, Bruce Gedye, this afternoon also issued a statement on behalf of the family thanking all those involved in the search.

"We are hearing stories of people who are using their own boats and canoes to search. So many people are asking how they can help, including people we don't even know. Your kindness is hugely appreciated."

He especially wanted to thank extended family for their love, support and generosity.

"We appreciate everyone who turned out to last night's vigil at Paritutu Rock.

"Your thoughts and words spoken there last night are appreciated."

The family was grateful for Shell Todd in funding a helicopter to assist in the search, as well as Spotswood College pupils and the school's principal Mark Bowden and deputy principal Darren Shaw.

"Thank you too to all of the volunteers and the emergency service personnel who are continuing to search. Please keep trying and let's hope we can bring Stephen, Felipe and Bryce home."

Incident controller Inspector Frank Grant this afternoon said the search for the missing three was being scaled back after more than 48 hours of extensive marine, land and aerial searches.

A shoreline search was completed late this afternoon.

"An aerial and marine search has also been underway today and Alpine Cliff Rescue volunteers have conducted a thorough search around the base of Paritutu Rock, however, sadly, the bodies of the three missing have not yet been recovered."

Shoreline and aerial searches would continue over the weekend.

Joao De Melo's father, Celio Fernando, told media in Brazil soon after the rescue began that his son was an athlete who played many sports.

He hoped his son had swum to safety and was waiting to be rescued.

The De Melo family, who live in Ceara in northeastern Brazil, was told of the incident on Wednesday afternoon (NZT) and was in contact with Brazilian authorities in New Zealand.

- APNZ

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