Search for missing man suspended

9 June 2007

The search for a Hawkes Bay man missing in a dinghy off the Napier Coast has been suspended, following an extensive search covering approximately 3,200 square kilometres over 37 hours.

Searchers have been looking for 25-year-old Hastings man Ngati John Cornelius since early Thursday afternoon (7 June) after he was reported missing by a family member. Mr Cornelius went out in the dinghy from Awatoto Beach, Napier, sometime between 4.00am and 7.00am on Thursday, amid strong offshore winds. He had no safety equipment on board and was lightly dressed. He was also understood to have been drinking.

RCCNZ mission coordinator Geoff Lunt said following a thorough review of the entire search, the Director of Maritime New Zealand had endorsed RCCNZ’s recommendation to suspend the search.

“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Mr Cornelius. It’s never an easy decision to suspend a search, and it is disheartening for everyone involved not be able to find any sign of him.

” Mr Lunt said every effort had been made to find Mr Cornelius, with Napier Police, the local coastguard, search aircraft and helicopters joining in the search. However, the search had now gone past the time someone could reasonably be expected to survive in the current conditions.

“Unfortunately, a combination of strong offshore winds and low water temperatures (around 17 degrees centigrade) means that the possibility of a successful rescue is now considered unlikely. However, if any new and relevant information comes to light we can relaunch the search and rescue operation.

Despite the search being unsuccessful, local Police, Coastguard, the Phillips Rescue Trust Plane, the Hawkes Bay Helicopter Rescue Trust and all of those involved in the search had done a tremendous job, Mr Lunt said.

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