Search for missing person off Opoutere resumes as Surf Life Saving urges Kiwis not to swim at unpatrolled beaches

  • 19/01/2023

The search operation for a missing person off Coromandel's Opoutere Beach has resumed after a mass rescue effort on Wednesday.

A person died, multiple people were hospitalised and another is still missing after seven people - believed to be members of the same family - got into trouble in the water on Wednesday morning.

The rescue came only a day after a 78-year-old man drowned at Whangamatā, just kilometres up the coast.

Acting Snr Sgt Will Hamilton, of Whangamatā, said a shoreline and water search for the missing person would continue at Opoutere on Thursday. 

A fixed-wing aircraft would also search the area, Hamilton said.

Witness Tony Brooks, who rushed to the scene to help with rescue efforts on Wednesday, told the NZ Herald he consoled a woman she believed to be the wife of the man who died.

"To lose her husband in front of her eyes and to know her son [still missing] hadn't come in must be really tough," he said.

"Can you imagine the heartache?"

Speaking to Newshub Late on Wednesday, Surf Life Saving New Zealand national manager Andy Kent confirmed Opoutere was not monitored by lifeguards.

Kent. Photo credit: Newshub.

"The end result of today is an absolute tragedy," he said.

"Unfortunately, the patients here have decided to swim at an unpatrolled beach which is an extremely risky situation when you take those chances, and unfortunately here today it's ended in tragedy."

As the search for the missing person continued, Hamilton urged anyone who finds any items of interest on the coastline to hand them in to the police at Whangamatā Surf Club.