Distraught father: I've lost both of my boys

A specialist dive squad has continued the search for a young man feared drowned at a popular surf beach north of Gisborne yesterday.

A dive team from Wellington has begun searching for the 19-year-old man who disappeared with his brother while swimming at Makorori Beach just before 10am.

The man's 23-year-old brother was discovered around half an hour later.

A 20-year-old man, a friend of the two brothers, made it back to shore before help arrived.

It is believed the trio got into difficulty while swimming in metre-plus surf about 100 metres off the beach, which is 12 kilometres north of Gisborne.

The search for the missing brother continued this morning, with a police dive squad from Wellington entering the water, while searchers combed the beach and boats went out to search the sea, Senior Sergeant Clint Adamson from the Eastern District Command Centre said.

It was a "generally nice day", and it was believed conditions were good, he said.

The double-drowning was the latest incident in a horror summer on the water, with at least 13 drownings since Christmas.

Last night, a 22-year-old man was feared drowned after he and a friend tried to cross the Waikato River in Hamilton. The search was called off at 11pm. And a dad plunged into the Auckland Harbour to save his 3-year-old daughter who had fallen off North Wharf.

The Gisborne trio had been staying with the brothers' parents in a caravan at nearby Tatapouri Motor Camp before driving the 2km to Makorori Beach to fish and swim.

Camp manager Chris Berge said the brothers and their parents were regulars. He saw police and surf lifesavers while driving past the beach, before a police officer arrived at the camp looking for the brothers' parents.

"He said, 'Do you have such-and-such a family here?' and I said, 'Oh, Jesus Christ, yes'. The mum and dad are the loveliest people and this will tear their hearts out."

The brothers' father later came to settle his camping bill, but Berge refused payment.

"He said, 'I'm just not thinking very straight at the moment and all I can think of is just starting from the beginning, so I'll pack up and take it from there'.

"I went to give him a hug and he burst into tears. He said, 'I've lost both of my boys'."

Berge believed the brothers' mother had gone to Gisborne Hospital to see her sons' surviving friend.

Neither Berge nor police would name the men last night, but Berge said the family was well known in Gisborne. He believed the couple did not have any other children.

"They're a very well liked local family. [The father] is a contractor and he owns his own orchard."

The brothers were lovely lads, Berge said. "They're quiet and shy."

They were fit and strong and were in the water often, Berge said.

The weather was fine but there was a strong swell in the water, he said.

"This is a tragic lesson of how unforgiving the ocean can be. It's nearly taken me a couple of times. It's a killer in disguise."

It is the latest tragedy in our waters this summer, with 13 people drowning to date. Ninety people drowned last year.

Search crews, including a rescue helicopter, surf lifesavers and the Coastguard, were looking for the missing man.

Gisborne Senior sergeant Maui Aben said police had not yet spoken to the survivor so did not know why the men got into trouble.

In Hawke's Bay yesterday a teenager and a 51-year-old man were hauled from the water by bystanders within minutes of each other at Waimarama Beach. They were taken to Hawke's Bay Hospital but later discharged.

- NZME and Herald on Sunday

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