With the upcoming Beach & Boat fishing comp in mind, what began as a standard hour long run up the coast to check everything was running smoothly has ended in tragedy for a Mangawhai family.
Around 6pm on Wednesday February 8, keen fisherman Shane Hayes headed off from the Alamar Cres boat ramp in his 7m Buccaneer heading for Langs Beach with the intention of being home by 7pm.
Later in the evening, and not wanting to cause alarm, wife Laureen called fellow fisherman Buck Buchanan saying Shane was then over an hour overdue than arranged, unusual because he was a good communicator and quick to use his cellphone and advise of any change of plan.
Buck summoned Surf Club member Murray Dix who launched the rescue boat on a quick reccy around Bream Tail and Andersons Bay in case of a breakdown and where there was no cellphone signal.
“This was heading towards dark,” says Murray “but there were no lights – an ominous sign, and then no sign of a boat.”
By the time he returned over the bar the weather had deteriorated considerably into one of the worse weather nights since before Christmas.
Bad weather and darkness severely hampered any early efforts to locate the missing craft.
Word spread quickly and daylight saw coastguard and police search parties in action while locals turned out in numbers.
The private plane of Murray Hargreaves of Maungaturoto, and plane and helicopter from Tara Iti Golf Club also joined the search but without success.
Spreading the net wider, finally the damaged boat was located at the Hen & Chicken Islands on the Friday and though divers then searched the area there has to date been no sign of a body.
At this point the lives of Laureen and children Jackie and Harrison are in a holding pattern. “We are simply overwhelmed by the support, especially from locals but also from friends all over the country and beyond,” says Laureen. “Days are long and we’re just hoping for something to turn up. We just want him home.”
A large-as-life character, Shane was no wallflower. When he entered the boat club you knew he was there. ‘Hey fellas, what’s happening?’ was a standard line.
He held a positive outlook on life and enjoyed his family and whatever he did – from his lifetime in harness racing in which he followed family tradition, to a five year training stint in Australia then moving back to Mangawhai in 2004 and a change in lifestyle.
Though the official search may have been scaled down, at print time locals were continuing to search sea and shoreline in the hope that this sad episode may be brought to closure.
A Givealittle page has been set up for donations to cover search related expenses – almost $17,000 has been raised.