30 Dec 2008

Widespread search for missing boat

12:43 pm on 30 December 2008

Dozens of people across the western Bay of Plenty are helping efforts to find five people aboard a missing boat.

Five people set off from Maketu at about 8.30am on Monday on a snorkelling trip to Motunau Island.

They sent a text message to the skipper's wife just before 1.30pm saying they were lost at sea.

Another text message believed to be from the boat was received at about 6am on Tuesday.

But the Rescue and Co-ordination Centre says efforts to call and text those on board have been unsuccessful.

Two adults and three boys were aboard the 5.5m fibreglass recreational vessel. The boys are aged 16, 12 and 11.

Weather conditions have improved, allowing two helicopters to join the search. An RNZAF Orion carried out a search overnight.

Tauranga Volunteer Coast Guard says there is a huge level of support from the local community. Surf clubs are making land searches from Waihi Beach south to Pekehina and Matata.

Marine controller Tom Scott says surf boats are also doing localised searches in their areas and Coastguards have returned to search around Motunau Island again.