Missing for four weeks: bodies of two men found in Tongariro National Park

News from NZ Police
Police this afternoon found the bodies of two men who went missing in the Tongariro National Park on Saturday 12 August.

The men’s whānau have been informed and Police Iwi Liaison Officers are continuing to offer them support.

The discovery of the men’s bodies follows an extensive search of the area by Police, LandSAR, specialist search teams, Police National Dive Squad, dogs, and hundreds of volunteers over the past four weeks. Police thank everyone who assisted with the search.

The men’s bodies have been removed and will be returned to their families.

“It is important that we have been able to bring the men back to their whānau to provide them with a sense of closure at this difficult time,” says Senior Constable Barry Shepherd.

The men’s deaths will be referred to the Coroner.

News from NZ Police – August 22
The search for two men missing in Tongariro National Park entered day ten today. Since the pair went missing on Saturday 12 August, the Police-co-ordinated search has included specialist search teams, hundreds of volunteers, the Police dive squad and a Police dog trained in search and rescue techniques.

All search activity to date has been unsuccessful in finding the pair.

Today a karakia led by Ngāti Tūwharetoa was held at the search site and a rāhui was placed on the area. Family of the missing men were also in attendance. The rāhui is being placed on the area between Mangamate Stream to the north, Makahikatoa Stream to the south, the Desert Road to the west and Tongariro River to the east.

Signs will be erected informing the public of the rāhui and to stay out of the designated area. Placing of rāhui is a cultural practice that will protect the site from disturbance. The rāhui will stay in place until lifted by Ngati Tūwharetoa.

The search for the two men is now entering a new phase. All information gathered through the search will be re-assessed and this will guide the way forward for the search.

Police are in close contact with the whanau of the two men and remain determined to bring these men home. Throughout the search the ongoing support from Ngāti Tūwharetoa has been invaluable and is greatly appreciated. Police Iwi Liaison Officers are continuing to support the families.

News from NZ Police – August 21
The search for the two men missing in Tongariro National Park continued today. A Police dog trained in search and rescue techniques has re-joined the operation, which is now in its ninth day.

Along with volunteers from LandSAR, we continue to search in an area between Tree Trunk Gorge Rd and the Pillars of Hercules. The search area is thick with bush. We want to ensure we cover every piece of ground to locate any evidence which would assist us in finding the pair.

We are grateful to the Police National Dive Squad, which completed its search of waterways yesterday. The weather today is in favour of the operation team, with conditions very clear.

Many of the whānau are staying in nearby Turangi. We have a number of Police Iwi Liaison Officers supporting the families and ensuring they are updated on the progress of the search.

Earlier News from NZ Police
The search for the two men missing in rugged bush in Tongariro National Park is continuing for its ninth day today. Searchers did not locate anything of interest yesterday, but as a result of a review of information, have identified further areas for searching today.

Sixty 60 people were deployed in the search area in the bush yesterday, made up of Police and LandSAR volunteers.

Senior Sergeant Jeurissen extends his thanks to Police’s volunteer search partners.

“This has been a long and involved operation, and they’re all motivated and focused,” he said.

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News from NZ Police – August 19
In today’s seventh day of the search for the two missing men missing in Tongariro National Park, 101 people were involved. The searchers, most of whom are volunteers, travelled from as far as Auckland and Wellington to assist. Most of them are expected to continue tomorrow.

The Police National Dive Squad completed a thorough search of Mangoatawai Stream and the area which joins Tongariro River.

Based on today’s search, Inspector Tony Jeurissen says further plans are being put in place.

“Unfortunately, the two men have still not been found but searchers remain determined to find them,” he says. “As a result of everyone’s relentless focus, we continue to find items of interest.” A beanie was found today, providing another clue for the search management team. “These small developments keep everyone going each day,” says Inspector Jeurissen. “With the continued dedication from all the volunteers, we will bring these men home to their whānau. I am so grateful for the enthusiasm from so many people all week and for the ongoing support from Ngāti Tūwharetoa.”

Police and LandSAR teams will continue with the search tomorrow.

Earlier News from NZ Police
The major search for the two men missing in Tongariro National Park will continue this weekend. Police staff and the Police National Dive Squad, LandSAR teams and a rescue helicopter were involved in the search yesterday. The dive squad will continue to join the search today.

Finishing the sixth day of the search, no further items of interest were found.

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A helicopter was used by the search management team, based at Taupo Police Station, to get a refreshed visualisation of the area. The aerial images show the dense bush where searchers are working.

Inspector Tony Jeurissen says further planning has been carried out ready for another extensive search today. “Unfortunately, they have still not been found but we have identified further areas of interest,” he says.

A major search is tasked for Saturday with further resources.

“For the seventh day, more LandSAR volunteers will be arriving, including returned searchers and those who are new to this operation,” says Inspector Jeurissen. “We extend our thanks to the continued efforts of staff, volunteers and representative members of Ngāti Tūwharetoa who have all assisted in this extensive operation. We all remain determined to bring these two men home to their whānau.”

News from NZ Police – August 18
Members of the Police National Dive Squad are today being deployed to waterways as part of the search for two men in Tongariro National Park. The pair have not been seen since Saturday. The dive team arrived yesterday and have made an assessment of the places to search. A helicopter will today ferry the divers to creeks and streams.

They will focus on waterways within the existing search area, located between Tree Trunk Road and the Pillars of Hercules. The divers will be joined by land-based searchers.

Police continue to liaise with the whānau of the men, to keep them updated on the search and to ensure they receive the support they need. The search is taking place on Ngāti Tūwharetoa whenua, and Police remain grateful to the iwi and its members for their continued assistance.

Earlier News from NZ Police
Police last night reached the end of the fifth day searching for two missing men in Tongariro National Park. The men haven’t been seen since last Saturday.

While tough conditions were endured, searching between Tree Trunk Road and the Pillars of Hercules, no further evidence of their whereabouts was found.

At the Taupo Police Station search base, all the information gathered so far has been evaluated. By assessing the areas covered up until now, Police and LandSAR worked to re-task search efforts for today. The Police National Dive Squad are expected to join the sixth day of the search. The dive squad will search streams and creeks.

In a meeting in Turangi yesterday afternoon, the latest information was shared with whanau who continue to receive support. Police acknowledge the exceptional assistance provided by representative members of Ngāti Tūwharetoa. They have supported searchers and the mens’ families throughout this distressing time.

News from NZ Police – August 17
Police, Defence and LandSAR staff will continue the search for a fifth day today, for two men lost in rugged bush in Tongariro National Park. Search teams continued to find items yesterday which we believe belong to the two men. This has provided further confirmation that we are focusing our search efforts on the correct area.

Police met whanau of the two men last night to provide an update on the search.

Members of Tūwharetoa were also in attendance and Police would acknowledge the ongoing assistance and support being provided by the iwi.

News from NZ Police – August 17
The Army will today assist the Police search for two men lost in rugged bush in Tongariro National Park. About a dozen Army personnel from Waiouru will join fresh and existing Police and volunteer search teams, on the fringe of Kaimanawa Forest.

The search is concentrated in a three square kilometre area, close to the Pillars of Hercules.

Yesterday’s discovery of items possibly belonging to the pair – including a plastic water bottle and shoes – helped Police to focus on a particular area.

The men were last seen on Saturday night. As more time passes, our hopes of finding them fade.

Police continue to liaise with the families of the pair and we are doing all we can to find the men. Due to the weather, a helicopter is unable to join today’s search.

News from NZ Police- August 15
Police and LandSAR volunteers have finished searching today for the two men lost in Tongariro National Park, on the edge of Kaimanawa Forest. A couple of items have been located, which have been identified as belonging to the missing men.

Searchers from Taihape, Whanganui and Tauranga have assisted with the search today, with further Police and volunteer personnel due to join the search tomorrow.

“Tonight we will assess all the information and items we have found so far and plan our search tomorrow,” said Inspector Kevin Taylor. “The likelihood of a positive outcome is diminishing. The two men were ill-prepared to spend time in the bush and are likely to now be in a critical condition

“Police are supporting both whanau who are understandably very concerned as the search looks to enter its fourth day,” said Inspector Taylor.

Earlier News from NZ Police
Police and LandSAR volunteers have today resumed the search for two men in Tongariro National Park, on the edge of Kaimanawa Forest.

A search team left the area shortly after 9pm last night after finding a number of items of interest. Remnants of a campfire were found near to where the 111 call was made on Sunday morning. The fire was most likely lit on Saturday. Clothing and a shoe were found approximately 150m north of where the fire was.

For today’s search, 40 Search and Rescue volunteers have travelled from areas as far as Whanganui and Tauranga. They will continue the intensive search in 10 teams of four and are entering the area now. Due to poor weather, a helicopter is not able to assist. The search will focus on the area radiating out from where the campfire and clothing were found. Police believe the two men will now be in a very serious condition, likely suffering from hypothermia.

Inspector Kevin Taylor says the search teams will remain in the bush for the day.

“The bush is exceptionally dense and this is a challenging search,” he says. “If the two individuals are in a condition where they’re not responsive, they will only be found once a searcher is in their immediate vicinity. The longer these young men remain in these conditions, the less likely it is that they will survive. However, today we still remain determined and hopeful that we will find them alive.”

News from NZ Police – August 14
The search for two men missing in the Tongariro National Park has continued without success today. The men are believed to be missing at the far eastern edge of the Tongariro National Park. Five search teams, including two search and rescue dogs, have been searching the forest area today continuing on from the search which started on Sunday.

While searchers were able to make voice contact with the missing pair yesterday afternoon it was only for a short time and the pair then stopped responding making it impossible for the searchers to find them.

Today search teams have found an area where a fire had recently been lit and also some clothing however nothing further has been located. The search will continue today until it is too dark and then the situation will be reassessed. The search area is in very dense bush which is very hard to push through.

While a helicopter has been on stand-by it has been unable to assist with the search due to the weather. “The longer these young men are out there ill-prepared in a bush environment with adverse weather conditions the less likely it is there will be a successful outcome,” said Bay of Plenty Operations Manager, Inspector Kevin Taylor.

Earlier news of August 14
Police have serious concerns for the welfare of two men lost in Tongariro National Park and a significant search is under way to find them. The two men, aged in their 20s, are believed to be the same two individuals who fled from police in a stolen car on Saturday. Police attempted to stop the stolen car at approximately 3pm on Saturday, before the driver fled at speed north on the Desert Road.

The car was eventually abandoned on a track off Tree Trunk Gorge Road, off the Desert Road. The driver and passenger ran off into the bush. Police attempted to locate them but they actively avoided officers and were not located. The incident prompted Police to warn road users to report sightings of pedestrians or hitchhikers in the area.

 

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