Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the NZME. News Service office in Wellington.

Last chance to search for missing Taranaki trio

Three students fell from Paritutu rock in Taranaki.
Photo / File
Three students fell from Paritutu rock in Taranaki. Photo / File

New Plymouth police say this morning will be the last chance for some days that they will have clear weather to search for three people who have been missing off the coastline since Wednesday.

Bryce John Jourdain, 42, and 17-year-olds Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye and Brazilian exchange student Joao Felipe Martins De Melo have been missing since a climbing expedition turned to tragedy at Paritutu Rock.

The Spotswood College students fell into the sea, 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, who are now presumed drowned, and police yesterday said parts of the search would be scaled back.

Police search and rescue co-ordinator, Sergeant Andrew Ross told APNZ the conditions this morning were clear, but rain was expected this afternoon and for the next few days.

"This morning's our best chance over the next couple of days of an opportunity for visibility - to be able to see something.''

Searchers would continue to scour the coastline for the missing trio, today.

Mr Ross said while some aspects of the search were scaled back, that did not mean police were reducing their efforts in recovering the bodies.

"We still have the same, if not more people on the coast today doing the whole coastline.''

There would also be five surf IRBs checking areas and two kayakers checking the port where boats are moored.

"We won't have helicopters going most of the day looking. We're fairly confident that what we've done in the last few days, if there was something in that area, the highest probability is we would have located them.''

The Air Force had also finished their search, but Mr Ross said on their flight back to Ohakea, they would travel along the coast and have another look.

Mr Ross said the police dive squad were monitoring the conditions but so far swells had been too big for them to search.

The high swell had also hampered efforts for a search of a cave underneath Paritutu Rock, he said.

The only student to survive a fall from the rock face told TVNZ's Close Up yesterday pure panic ran through his mind as he thought he would not survive.

Campbell Shaw had said they were not wearing harnesses at the time of the incident, but said they were standing on a flat area of rock and the instructors did what they could to protect them.

"We weren't supposed to be going to the rock, we were supposed to be doing something else, but the decision was to go there and it was a fine day, and then as soon as we got there the clouds came over, it was raining.''

The group was excited about the activity and everyone thought it was a "harmless climb''.

But at a certain point the waves got too big, he said.


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