10 Jun 2016

Man's body found in search for missing pair

7:43 pm on 10 June 2016

A Greymouth man's body has been found in a remote river on the West Coast, where he and a two-year-old girl went missing on Thursday.

Police have named the man as Barry Petrie, 66, and the girl as Emily Saunders.

Generic police car.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Mr Petrie and Emily were among five people in a four-wheel-drive vehicle that became partially submerged trying to cross the rain-swollen Poerua River, near Harihari.

The other three people inside the vehicle managed to get out.

Rescue teams have been scouring the area, including riverbanks and beaches, using kayaks, boats and a rescue helicopter, in difficult weather conditions.

Sergeant Paul Watson said Mr Petrie's body was found about 2pm, and was recovered shortly afterwards.

He said, at this stage, the search for the two-year-old had been suspended until Monday.

"We've got another large front moving through into tomorrow, which is going to bring further heavy rain, and the river will obviously continue to rise. It's been rising all day today.

"Until those conditions change, and the water starts receding and dropping a bit further, we've got to the stage of our search - we've exhausted our current search techniques and what we can do."

Mr Watson said Emily's family lived nearby, and that they had been helping Mr Petrie and his co-worker get across the river.

"Emily was in the vehicle with her parents, her mother and her father. They had attempted to assist Mr Petrie and a co-worker of his, who were undertaking some possum control work on the opposite side of the river.

"Unfortunately, during those endeavours, the vehicle's come to grief due to the water."

He said the searchers were heartbroken they hadn't been able to find Emily for her family.

"All our searchers have certainly put their hearts and souls into it, and I think they're all quite sad to be moving away tonight without that resolution."

The area where Mr Petrie's body was found had been blessed by a local kaumatua.

About 130mm of rain fell on the Westland ranges on Thursday, and up to 140mm was expected to have fallen on Friday.

Harihari, West Coast

Harihari, West Coast Photo: GOOGLE MAPS