Search for missing yachtsman suspended

16 February 2012, 10:30am

The search for a yachtsman missing in the Bay of Plenty has this morning been suspended, after an extensive search over the last two days failed to find him.

The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) began an extensive aerial, land and on water search for sailor Richard Rusbatch, 56, on Tuesday (14 February), with assistance from Western Bay of Plenty Police, after a member of the public reported his unmanned 38 foot yacht, the Honfleur circling about 11 nautical miles east of Mayor Island.

Land search teams spent yesterday combing Mayor Island for signs of Mr Rusbatch, while a Coastguard vessel circumnavigated the island checking the shoreline, and an aircraft covered a 900 square kilometre search area east of the island, without success. An aircraft and a Navy vessel also carried out comprehensive searches on Tuesday without success.

“Sadly, despite an exhaustive land, sea and air search over the last two days, there has been no sign of Mr Rusbatch,” RCCNZ Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator Dave Wilson said.

“Given the length of time that has passed since he went missing, unfortunately it has now gone beyond the point where he could reasonably still be expected to be found alive.

“Therefore, after carefully reviewing the search effort, in the absence of any new information, and in discussions with Police and the family, the difficult decision has been made to formally suspend the search. Our deepest sympathies go out to Mr Rusbatch’s family for their loss.

“We also acknowledge everyone involved in the search, including the Western Bay of Plenty Police, Tauranga Coastguard, Police LandSAR, the Royal New Zealand Navy, the Phillips Search and Rescue Trust and the Trustpower Rescue Helicopter.”

Mr Wilson said the search could be resumed if any new information came to light.

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