9 Aug 2012

Search halted for missing 3 in Taranaki

4:45 am on 9 August 2012

A search for two students, one Brazilian, and a climbing instructor missing in rough seas off New Plymouth will resume on Thursday morning.

Inspector Frank Grant says 11 students from Spotswood College, including some international students, both aged 17, and two instructors were climbing on Paritutu Rock when three fell in the ocean about 1.20pm on Wednesday.

One of the students managed to cling to rocks and was winched off by a helicopter along with others stranded. He was later treated for hypothermia.

An instructor in his 40s jumped in to help the remaining two, and all three are still missing.

Mr Grant says grave fears are held for their safety because of the rough and cold sea conditions.

Crew from the Taranaki rescue helicopter say the missing people would be lucky to survive the conditions.

Crew member Phil Dwyer told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Wednesday the choppy water was reducing visibility on Wednesday and the climbers were not wearing life-jackets.

The search will resume at first light on Thursday.