Kiwi missing in Bali after rogue-wave rescue attempt

A Kiwi man is missing after a harrowing incident in Bali when a powerful rogue wave washed his German girlfriend out to sea.

Indonesian police say Temson Junior Simeki and his girlfriend Leonie Hafke were in a group of people taking photos at the Angel's Billabong tourist spot on Nusa Penida Island when several large waves hit on Monday morning.

One witness who lives in Bali was also on the rocks with her friends at the time, and has described the horrific scene to Newshub.

She says the first wave smashed into Ms Hafke. "She was screaming for help, wounded, and nobody could do anything because the next wave was already on its way."

Mr Simeki panicked and dove into the water after her, she said.

"Besides this couple, there were more people around there and who got seriously injured. An Indonesian girl bumped her head onto the rocks, fortunately she survived and has been brought to the hospital."

The witness says a local man she believes was a tour guide broke his leg in the bombardment of waves, and was left with bone piercing through the skin.

"I saved my sister who was stuck between the rocks and hurt her feet badly. We literally ran for our life through the rock on our bare feet because we lost our flip flops in the water.

"The other waves came, and we were even at the end of all the rocks, and it still got two of us under water and bumping into the rocks," she told Newshub.

Ms Hafke, 20, was knocked into the sea and 23-year-old Mr Simeki jumped in to save her. 

Ms Hafke was later rescued by an Australian snorkeller, but the search continues for Mr Simeki, Nusa Penida precinct police chief Ketut Suastika told local media.

Mr Simeki and Ms Hafke met while working at The Riverhead tavern in northwest Auckland.

The Riverhead owner Stephen Pepperell says they'd known him since he was 17.

"TJ was this shy young guy, we set him up to be a runner in the restaurant," he told Newshub.

"It was great to see him grow, blossom into this delightful young man - head back, four plates on his arms, charging around the restaurant.

"We were hoping he was going to come back. He went travelling down south with his girlfriend who he met here at the tavern, and we were trying to lure them back for the summer.

"Leonie was a true traveller, she worked on the bar and got to know TJ... The chemistry struck up, and he got hooked into the travel fever."

Mr Pepperell says Mr Simeki would not have given his attempt to rescue Ms Hafke a second thought.

"That was TJ... He and Leonie were very close.

"Our hearts go out to his family, and to Leonie, she'll obviously be devastated.

"It'll be a sad day for Riverhead,": Mr Pepperell says.

Leonie Hafke and Temson Junior Simeki
Leonie Hafke and Temson Junior Simeki (Facebook)
The German woman was rescued and taken to a nearby hospital (Tribun Bali / Eka Mita Suputra)
The German woman was rescued and taken to a nearby hospital (Tribun Bali / Eka Mita Suputra)

One visitor at Nusa Penida said on Facebook he had spoken to the people who rescued Ms Hafke.

"Tonight we had a lovely dinner and the group on a table near us were feeling traumatised," the person wrote.  

"They had been out snorkelling today as had we had... When they were on their way back they saw a young woman bobbing around. They dragged her into their boat. 

"She kept saying her boyfriend was still out there and she'd been in the ocean for four hours already."

The couple had been in the rock pools by the open sea when a freak wave washed the woman out. Mr Simeki jumped in to save her.

"She was just lucky that group were out there or she may have drowned also. She had cuts all over her," the post said. 

"We were out in that area today and may have well missed seeing her, not hard when the ocean is pumping like it was."

Ms Hafke was taken to hospital and is believed to be in the care of a French couple.

A third person in the group - Kalia Betari Utami from Jakarta - also received hospital treatment for injuries to his head, the Tribun Bali reports.

A very similar incident happened at Angel's Billabong in 2016, when a large wave swept a Perth couple out to sea. 

Newshub. / NZN

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