Father missing in Tauranga Harbour

Search and rescue teams have recovered the aluminium runabout carrying the 52-year-old Katikati man who is missing in Tauranga Harbour.

The 52-year-old man went missing when the boat he was in with four young people aged seven to 23-years-old capsized in Bowentown around 5pm last night.

The four children aged seven to 23-years-old managed to swim to shore at Matakana Island before being picked up by passing fishermen. They were taken to Tauranga Hospital for observation.

Coastguard have recovered the aluminium runabout.

A section of the beach has been taped off by police.

Initial reports were the four young people -two males and two females aged between seven and 23 - were found clinging to the capsized boat but police say they were found onshore at Matakana Island.

They were wearing lifejackets when they were found at Matakana by local fishermen Warren Coffey and Peter Besley. The children recognised Peter as he teaches them at Katikati College.

Despite a major search of the area around Bowentown Heads at the Northern entrance to the Tauranga Harbour, a 52-year-old man is still missing.

Police say the 14foot aluminium boat was capsized by a rogue wave just after 5pm, however, the alarm was not raised until several hours after the incident when the passing vessel came upon it.

Waihi Police Sergeant Dave Litton says the search following the rescue of the four young people was a whole community response.

“From what we've been able to piece together so far we believe a rogue wave has capsized a 14ft aluminium boat with five people aboard between Bowentown and Matakana Island between 5pm and 5.30pm.

“The four younger people managed to swim to shore on Matakana Island but were unable to raise the alarm until they flagged down a passing boat about 7.30pm and this vessel brought the group ashore and the alarm was raised about 8pm.”

Dave says with the group's 52-year-old father is still unaccounted for.

A search was launched, which police say gathered a tremendous response from the local and wider community.

The group were treated by ambulance staff while the TrustPower TECT Rescue Helicopter and two rigid hull inflatables from the local surf club were launched to commence a search of the water.

“At the same time 10 members of a Waihi based Mines Rescue unit were transported to Matakana Island to begin shoreline searches there while members of the local volunteer fire brigade commenced a search of the Waihi Beach-Bowentown coast.

“The search was unable to locate the missing Katikati man and was stood down shortly before midnight and is resuming at first light today.”

The Coastguard rescue vessel Gallagher involved in the search.

Dave says the search for the missing man is being coordinated by the Waikato Police Search and Rescue squad and will again involve significant numbers of local people from a variety of organisations.

“It's in situations such as this that the true spirit of the community really comes to the fore and Waikato Police would like to thank all those involved so far.

“At this point it is not clear if all of the persons in the boat were wearing life jackets at the time it overturned but it understood life jackets were being carried aboard the vessel.”

The mishap occurred near low tide, on the first of the incoming.

The sea swell range recorded on the Port of Tauranga monitoring system showed 1.5m to 2.2m with a north easterly breeze around 15 knots.

Read more about last night's search here.


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