NEW PLYMOUTH: A further shoreline and marine search is underway in New Plymouth today for the three people missing off Paritutu Rock since Wednesday afternoon.
Incident Controller Inspector Frank Grant says around 50 searchers from police, land search and rescue, army territorials and Red Cross are completing a further shoreline search today.
Instructor Bryce Jourdain and 17-year-old Spotswood College students Stephen Lewis Kahukaka-Gedye and Joao Felipe Martins De Melo are thought to have drowned after being swept out to sea during a climbing expedition at Paritutu Rock on Wednesday.
"We also have some Taranaki Surf Lifesaving inflatable rescue boats (IRBs) out on the water again today. They attempted to go into parts of the cave area underneath Paritutu Rock, however the water conditions were too rough which has made it difficult to search this area today," Grant said.
The Air Force Iroquois did a further aerial search along the coastline from New Plymouth to Opunake, before departing the area.
"Sadly, we have still not recovered the bodies of Bryce Jourdain, Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye or Felipe Melo but we will continue searching throughout the course of the weekend. Our focus remains on returning the bodies of Bryce, Stephen and Felipe home to their loved ones," he said.
Grant says a number of volunteers are also conducting their own searches along the coastline today.
The police investigation is now turning to how the rock-climbing adventure went wrong.
Eleven Year 13 students from the Taranaki Outdoor Pursuit Education Centre (TOPEC) were doing a rock-climbing exercise at Paritutu Rock when the accident happened.
They have begun interviewing students and an instructor who were part of the expedition.
"Yesterday police continued speaking to witnesses as part of the investigation into the circumstances which led to Wednesday afternoon's tragic incident," said Grant.
"Our investigation is likely to take several weeks to complete."
Taranaki Outdoor Pursuit Education Centre (TOPEC) Board Chairman David Grigg said today that he has started an internal investigation into the incident.
"TOPEC is working to support our staff and community and will continue to respond to events as they unfold. We are working closely with the Police and Department of Labour as they commence their investigation.
"At this time, as search operations continue, our thoughts and prayers are with the missing and their families," Grigg said.