13 Jun 2016

Search for two-year-old girl called off

5:43 pm on 13 June 2016

The search for a two-year-old girl missing in a West Coast river since Thursday has been called off after a huge effort today failed to locate her.

Emily Saunders was one of five people in a four-wheel drive inundated while trying to cross the Poerua River, near Harihari south of Hokitika, on Thursday.

All five occupants of the car got out of the vehicle, but Emily and Barry Petrie, 66, were swept downriver.

Mr Petrie's body was found late on Friday.

Emily's parents and another man were able to escape the river, and seek help.

Senior Constable Mike Tinnelly said 32 searchers including the crews of a helicopter and two jet boats, and a dog team, had failed to find the toddler and would not be returning to the scene.

"The river has been extensively searched from where the vehicle first went in, right to the mouth, and the beaches and all the debris north and south have been checked thoroughly, so everything we possibly could do has been done today."

Mr Tinnelly said the police national dive squad would be brought down from Wellington to check the river bed when the water cleared.

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