Searchers looking for a missing Dunedin teenager who disappeared in the ocean on Thursday have found a body.

Formal identification is yet to take place, however police believe it is 14-year-old Vinnie Beecroft, who failed to return to shore at St Clair Beach three days ago.

"While this is not the outcome anyone wanted from the search, our team are relieved they have been able to return Vinnie to his family," police said.

"Police would like to thank all those involved in the search, including Surf Live Saving NZ and LandSAR."

Vinnie's family today thanked his friends and those searching Dunedin waters in the bid to find him.

They noted the "truly brave and heroic" efforts of the young boys who tried to help Vinnie, 14, after he got into trouble in the water at Seconds Cliff, St Clair, on Thursday afternoon.

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Kathy Peters, a relative, today made a statement on behalf of their family.

Lifesavers using inflatable rescue boats searched an area near the St Clair hot salt-water pool on Thursday. Photo / ODT, Stephen Jaquiery
Lifesavers using inflatable rescue boats searched an area near the St Clair hot salt-water pool on Thursday. Photo / ODT, Stephen Jaquiery

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Peters said the family wished to express their utmost gratitude for the efforts that have been made by everyone in the search.

"A special thanks to NZ Search and Rescue, Police, Victim Support, Surf Life Saving NZ, especially at St Clair, and all others involved," she said.

"Very special thoughts and thanks go to the young boys who were there with Vinnie at the time, their efforts were truly brave and heroic in their bid to help Vinnie when he got into difficulty at Seconds Cliff on Thursday afternoon."

The search for the missing boy resumed today. Photo / Stephen Jaquiery
The search for the missing boy resumed today. Photo / Stephen Jaquiery

The boys had spent the afternoon having fun in and around the water, enjoying the day, when tragedy struck.

"Unfortunately, Vinnie's immediate family have endured a number of tragic events over the years and are trying to cope with the current situation as best they can," Peters said.

While they were earlier still holding on to hope that Vinnie would be found, they acknowledged this was becoming increasingly unlikely as the hours passed.

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"Again, thank you to all those involved and to the services and people that know Vinnie well and have supported him in the past.

"A heartfelt thank you is expressed for the ongoing support you are offering."