27 Jan 2015

Body found in search for second son

8:15 pm on 27 January 2015

Gisborne police are in the process of formally identifying the body of a young man found in the surf at Wainui Beach north of the city late this afternoon.

Makorori beach.

Makorori Beach Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

They believe it is that of 19-year old John Wakelin, who disappeared in heavy surf with his 23-year old brother, Paul, at nearby Makarori Beach on Saturday.

Paul Wakelin was found shortly after his brother remained missing, despite intensive searching.

However, a surfer found the body - believed to be John Wakelin - in the waves at Wainui about 4.30pm today and, with the help of a local resident, brought it ashore.

Search co-ordinator Sergant Greg Lexman said the discovery came as a massive relief to the brothers' heartbroken family, searchers and the whole Gisborne community.

The brothers were Chris and Lynell Wakelin's only children, and Chris Wakelin today told Radio New Zealand they were best friends.

"They were both awesome guys in their own right," he said.

"They were generous and happy and easy-going and both got a huge bundle of friends. John was still at school and Paul has been working for me for six months now.

"Just in every way - we were blessed with really neat kids."

Mr Wakelin said the family were in auto-pilot mode while they started to cope with the loss.

"Police came and saw us in the motor camp - turned up and said 'we want to talk to you, we want to go into your caravan to talk' ... They explained what had happened and, of course, the minute the first sentence came out, you know, you go cold on it," he said.

"It was surreal. We couldn't believe it. Not our boys. It's stuff that you read about."

He said the brothers were used to being at the beach and in the water.

"They're both proficient kayakers, they're both good swimmers, both strong and healthy and Oliver, the third guy, was strong and healthy. They've been around water all their lives."

Mr Wakelin said he was not surprised that Paul had gone into the water to try to save the others.

"That's Paul to a T. He wouldn't give up. He would have seen the events unfolding and he would have just been straight in there, even with the risk to himself."

He said the family appreciated the help given by searchers, their friends, and the compassion of the community at Makarori.

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