12 Feb 2012

Police scale back search for boy presumed drowned

5:44 pm on 12 February 2012

Police in Huntly have scaled back the search for a teenager presumed to have drowned in the Waikato River.

Zharian Watkins, 13, was last seen jumping from a rail bridge into the river at Huntly on Friday afternoon.

On Sunday, the Police Dive Squad carried out an extensive sweep of the river with the help of the Waikato Regional Council.

Police say they are still committed to finding Zharian Watkins but have decided to scale down the search and re-evaluate the situation over the next few days.

Zharian Watkins' close friend Zaden Callaghan told Radio New Zealand's Sunday programme that it is not uncommon for people to jump off the bridge, but changing water levels can make it dangerous.

"Most of the people from Huntly College go up there after school and jump off that bridge, but it really depends on what the water's like. Sometimes it's shallow, sometimes it's deep - you don't really know - and the current can be kind of fast on some days."

Zaden Callaghan says other friends and his family are devastated.

"They had a memorial drink for him last night and some of his close friends and I went down to the wharf and we were just sitting by the water all night ... All I want is to find the bro's body and get some closure."