Body find offers fresh hope for families

By Kieran Campbell

Three climbers have been missing since last week after being swept off Paritutu Rock in New Plymouth. Photo / Christine Cornege
Three climbers have been missing since last week after being swept off Paritutu Rock in New Plymouth. Photo / Christine Cornege

Police were preparing to end the search for two students and a climbing instructor who were swept to sea before a body was found in the ocean at the base of Paritutu Rock this morning.

Now hopes have been reignited that all three grieving families will be reunited with their loved ones, missing off the New Plymouth coast since August 8.

Inspector Frank Grant said the body, found by a power station worker this morning, would be formally identified overnight by comparing fingerprints collected by police after the trio disappeared.

Climbing instructor Bryce Jourdain, 42, dived into the ocean to try to rescue 17-year-old students Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye and Joao Felipe Martins De Melo, who fell while climbing with a school group.

The search for the Spotswood College students and Mr Jourdain, an instructor at Taranaki Outdoor Pursuits and Education Centre, was expected to end this week, Mr Grant said.

Today was the first day since the trio disappeared that searchers were not scheduled to scour the shoreline.

"If we didn't find that body today we would have scaled the search down to nothing,'' Mr Grant said.

"We will put a lot of effort in tomorrow [to find the other two missing].''

Police have contacted the families of Mr Jourdain, Mr Kahukaka-Gedye and Mr De Melo.

"Obviously for one of the families they'll be a lot happier at the fact they've found their loved one. For the other two they would still be rather distraught,'' Mr Grant said.

"Every day since the eighth of August we have applied some level of search.''

Efforts will be "ramped up'' tomorrow after "miserable'' weather today hampered searchers from taking inflatable boats to look for the remaining two.

- APNZ

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