Friends of the teenage boy missing off the coast of a west Auckland beach are paying tribute to his selfless actions.
Sixteen-year-old Leka Pasiaka was swimming with family members at the treacherous Whatipu Beach on Saturday, when he got into trouble with the strong currents.
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His sister, reportedly in her 20s, raced out to save him and they got stuck in the rip together.
A witness told NZME Leka pushed her away so she would survive. She made it back to shore, while he never resurfaced.
Now, poignant messages are being posted to social media praying for his family and hoping for his return.
"My heart aches for you and your family," one person wrote.
"Keep fighting brother, hang in there, keep the faith we all waiting to see you again," another said.
A family supporter told Newshub the family are devastated by the loss of their son. They've been waiting on the shoreline for any sign of the 16-year-old.
A land search was abandoned on Sunday morning, with rescuers putting all their hopes on spotting the missing boy from the air.