3 Sep 2008

Search called off for pair missing at sea

8:07 pm on 3 September 2008

A search and rescue mission for two men missing at sea off Tonga has been called off.

A New Zealand air force Orion spent eight hours searching an area of 15,000 square kilometres on Wednesday.

The pair have not been seen since they dropped off a group of divers at Duff Reef, off Tonga's main island, and are not well equipped for survival.

The divers say when they resurfaced about midday on Friday, both the boats and the men were gone. The divers took several hours to swim back to shore.

The Rescue Coordination Centre says it is believed the men on the boats had no food, emergency beacons or life jackets and only had enough water for up to two days.

Search and rescue officer Dave Wilson says the search was cancelled after the Orion team could not see any signs of the men from the air.

Mr Wilson says police in Tonga are investigating the pair's disappearance.