Wellington Scoop

Dive squad finds bodies of Masterton father and son, drowned while diving for paua


Police have named the two people who drowned while snorkelling off the Wairarapa coast. They were were Darren Southon, 48, and Joshua Southon, 11, both of Masterton.

Joe Southon, brother of Darren and uncle of Joshua, has released a statement on behalf of the family:

Darren was an adventurous, fun-loving man, who was a giant kid at heart. He was a bit of a joker, who also had a serious side to him. He loved his cycling, and had a passion for his work as a builder. He was well respected within the entire community.

Joshua was a chip off the old block, just like his dad, he gave everything a go, he was a competent young boy at everything he put his hand to. He adored his father and loved hanging out with him whether it be cycling, motorbike riding or splitting wood together. Both Darren and Joshua touched the hearts of many people.

We want to extend a huge thanks to the entire community.

To the Search and Rescue team, consisting of the Westpac Helicopter, Amalgamated Helicopters, the Police launch Lady Elizabeth IV, and those in the fishing competition that was on at the time that received the call to get every boat that was available across to the search area – they were there within minutes. Some of those people on board the boats responded to the distress call without knowing who was involved, but ultimately some of them discovered that they knew Darren and Joshua.

We want to thank all the people involved from:
The locals and the bach-goers who responded with the low-tide beach search that went through until about 2am on Saturday with torches;
Those who kept a beachside vigil overnight;
The volunteers of Mataikona Fire and Emergency;
The Whakataki Hotel and the many people who brought food, water, phone chargers, hugs, and rugs during that time;
To the Riversdale Surf Lifesaving Club;
Reverend Sally Tahana for her blessing and prayers on site;
Kaitiaki William Broughton for placing the Rahui;
Iwi Liaison Officer Joe Harwood;

To the Police themselves, and the National Police Dive Squad who did an amazing job with the search bringing our boys home.

News from NZ Police – January 11
The Police National Dive Squad has this evening found two bodies near Mataikona, off the Wairarapa coast. While formal identification is yet to take place, police believe the two deceased are the father and son reported missing after failing to return from a snorkelling trip yesterday.

Police are working to support the family involved, who are distraught at the loss of their loved ones.

Police thank all those involved in the search yesterday and today.

Earlier News from NZ Police
The search for two snorkellers missing off the Wairarapa coast is continuing this morning.

The Westpac Rescue Helicopter will resume a shoreline search followed by a search of the neighbouring ocean for the father and son at around 7am.

The Police National Dive Squad will also be out this morning.

A further low-tide search by Amalgamated Helicopters is expected to take place at around 1pm.

Police have grave concerns for the pair’s safety and we are working as hard as we can to find them.

Report from RNZ
A search for two snorkellers has resumed off the Wairarapa coast today as police express grave concerns for their safety. A rescue helicopter is carrying out a shoreline and sea search for the father and son who went missing yesterday while diving for paua. The Police National Dive Squad is also out this morning. A further low-tide search by another helicopter is expected to take place around 1pm.

Sergeant Tony Matheson of Wairarapa Search and Rescue says they have grave concerns for the pair’s safety.

Police were alerted to the missing pair at 11.34am yesterday, after they failed to return to shore from snorkelling for pāua near Mataikona.

The initial search included two helicopters, a police maritime unit, three commercial fishing boats and the Riversdale Surf Lifesaving Club.

A large number of private fishing vessels that were part of a fishing competition also helped, without success.

News from NZ Police – January 10
A search and rescue operation is underway after two people snorkelling for paua failed to return to shore near Mataikona in the Wairarapa today. Police were alerted to the incident at 11.34am.

The initial search included two helicopters (Westpac Rescue Helicopter and Amalgamated Helicopters), the Lady Elizabeth IV launch, three commercial fishing boats, the Riversdale Surf Life Saving Club, and a large number of private fishing vessels that had been part of a fishing competition.

We currently have the Lady Elizabeth and one helicopter still searching. They will stay out there until it gets dark and we will recommence in the morning if we are not successful today.

News from SurfLifesaving NZ
Volunteer Surf Lifeguards from Riversdale Beach Surf Lifesaving Club in the Wairarapa were among those called on to help search for a father and son, missing after failing to return from a snorkelling trip.

The incident occurred at a non-lifeguarded area.

Our thoughts are with the father and son’s family and friends at this time.

Surf Life Saving NZ acknowledges the Surf Lifeguards, the emergency services, volunteers and the members of the public who were called to the scene and assisted. Surf Life Saving New Zealand’s Coastal Safety team will work with emergency services to establish the circumstances.