Friends, family resume search for kayaker
Family and friends of missing fisherman Maurice Bede Philips, known as Wazza, will return to the Whangamata coastline today searching for the "happy-go-lucky guy" who they fear drowned after his kayak sank on Wednesday afternoon.
The surf life saving rescue boats and the police dive squad resumed the search for the missing 24-year-old Ngaruawahia man early today after an extensive search of the Whangamata bay and coastline failed to find him.
Mr Philips' friend Norm, who was on the kayak when it sank and managed to swim to safety, was understood to be in shock and devastated about the tragedy.
The 30-year-old from Cambridge continued to walk the coastline in the hope of spotting his mate.
Surf life saving club member Richard Scelly said Norm was dropped back on Hauturu (Clark) Island, 300 metres from where the two-man kayak sank, to join the search for his colleague and fishing buddy.
Norm and Mr Philips, a former Ngaruawahia High School student, were in Whangamata working for Doug Stamp Water Services on a waste water irrigation system for several weeks. They had gone fishing after the tools they were using had been stolen earlier in the day.
The pair paddled out from the harbour entrance about 4pm on Wednesday wearing heavy clothes and without lifejackets or wetsuits. They anchored near Clark Island.
When water filled the kayak both tried to swim for the Island but it wasn't until Norm reached it that he realised Mr Philips was no longer behind him.
Mr Philips' aunt, Georgie Templeton, said the family was heartbroken.
"Everyone is understandably in shock, absolutely devastated. Maurice was an only child. He and his father were particularly close, sharing the love of fishing.
"His parents are heartbroken as are all of us."
She said the "happy go-lucky guy" would be "very, very much missed".
Speaking from the family's Waingaro home last night, Ms Templeton said Mr Philips' mother Maureen and his girlfriend Angela King, whom he lived with in Ngaruawahia, spent yesterday searching and planned to resume the search today.
"The reality for us is there is very, very little hope of finding him alive now ...