15 February 2012 - 10.00pm
The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) tonight said that an aerial, land and on water search in the Bay of Plenty today has, despite extensive efforts, been unsuccessful in locating missing yachtsman Richard Rusbatch.
RCCNZ Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator, Mike Roberts said that the aircraft involved in the search are now on the ground. Overnight, today’s search will be evaluated and reviewed. Any decisions about next steps will be made tomorrow morning after consultation with other agencies involved, for example Police and Coastguard.
Mr. Roberts said.“Today’s search focused on and around Mayor Island and an area out to the east, as this is where our search modelling and other information indicates he is most likely to be. However, despite all of these efforts, unfortunately the search today has been unsuccessful.
“A Coastguard vessel completed a circumnavigation of the island searching the shoreline, while two LandSAR teams have covered the island inland, but without any sign of Mr Rusbatch. An aircraft search covering a 900 square kilometre area from Mayor Island Eastwards has also been unsuccessful.”
Aircraft spent much of yesterday looking for the missing yachtsman, focusing on a large area between Mayor and Motiti Islands. The search continued overnight, with the New Zealand navy vessel HMNZS Pukaki carrying out a shoreline search of Mayor Island with the aid of searchlights, and a search further offshore.
Mr Roberts said evidence indicated it was likely Mr Rusbatch was intending to anchor off Mayor Island in an area called Honeymoon Bay, hence the focus of the search in that area today. Weather conditions in the area remained favourable for searching, he said.
The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) began the search for Mr Rusbatch, 56, with assistance from Western Bay of Plenty Police, around 9am yesterday, after a member of the public reported his unmanned 38 foot, single-masted yacht, the Honfleur circling about 11 nautical miles east of Mayor Island.