Connor Hayes and Joanna Lam.
The chance of finding a Canadian couple alive after their
rental van was hurled down a remote West Coast gorge in a
landslide is now very remote, police say.
A helicopter with heat-sensing equipment and specialist
search dogs have joined the search today for Connor Hayes,
25, and Joanna Lam, 24, who were last seen at Fox Glacier
Their rental vehicle was found smashed to pieces at the
bottom of an 80 metre gorge on the Haast Past, which was
battered by heavy rain and landslides during a massive storm
A fuel tank belonging to the wrecked campervan was found
washed up some 50km from where it left the road, while
helicopters yesterday spotted a seat from the van.
Police said the van was likely hurled into the gorge by the
landslide on State Highway 6, which remains closed by he
West Coast police area commander Inspector John Canning this
morning said there was little hope the couple would be found
"Unfortunately now it's very, very remote that we will find
them alive. We've spoken to the coroner about it. It's just
too long, too rough and you look at the pictures of the
campervan - they were hit with one hell of a force," he told
Radio New Zealand.
The road had been legally open at the time of the landslide,
Mr Canning said.
"No one at that stage or time would have foreseen the slip
coming down. They were exceptional weather conditions - it's
the same night as Canterbury farmers lost all their
irrigators and everything. It was quite a storm that came
"Locals were concerned enough to turn around and go back
home. Unfortunately, tourists may have thought that it was
part of our weather pattern and the country was used to it,
and unfortunately it wasn't."
Mr Canning said the coroner might have "a fair bit to say"
about advice to tourists when he makes his findings.
The search would continue this morning but was likely to be
hampered after midday when the rain would start "bucketing
down", he told Radio NZ.
"Obviously the rivers will come up and that will hinder [the
search] because we're basically searching in the rivers for
debris and, at this stage now, probably the remains of the
"That will make things a lot more difficult, it will make
flying the helicopter a lot more difficult. But we'll just
take that as it comes. We've obviously got to keep things
safe while we search."
Mr Canning said the helicopter was searching 50km of the
Haast River for the couple this morning. The search would
take two to three hours, but could take considerably longer
if the helicopter found something.
Specialist search dogs - which could "get things that humans
can't" - would also be invaluable.
Relatives of the couple have told media they are holding out
hope for their loved ones.