The mother of a Gisborne girl feared drowned yesterday says she thought her daughter was a ghost when she appeared alive and well four hours later.
A big search was mounted for 11-year-old Riqueal Wharehinga when her mother reported her missing off Waikanae Beach, at the mouth of the Turanganui River.
A helicopter joined boats searching for her after the alarm was raised just after 4pm, and the police dive squad was called in.
Both the police and the family feared they were looking for a body.
However, fear turned to joy for Riqueal's mother, Ali.
"She walked straight past us. And when I looked at her, I thought I was looking at a ghost, it was like an apparition. And I called out to her and she spun around, and the whole family was sitting up here on the bank and we were all in awe when we saw her. I thought she was gone, it had been four hours."
Ms Mason said she would be telling Riqueal to always let an adult know where she was in future.