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Search for swimmer suspended

20:25 Sat Apr 14 2012

Police have suspended the search for a 22-year-old Fijian rugby player who disappeared while swimming with friends at a northern Wairarapa beach.

However, friends of Eroni Ravaga Gaunavou, 22, who went missing at Akitio beach on Easter Monday, will continue to look, police say.

Police suspended their involvement in the search on Saturday night after further sweeps at low tide failed to find any trace of him, Sergeant Andy Brooke of Palmerston North Search and Rescue said.

"It's never an easy decision to suspend official searches but was made after a full assessment of the extensive efforts of the last week."

A helicopter, boats, jet skis and more than 100 people were involved in the search on Saturday, which followed extensive searching throughout the week.

Ravaga Gaunavou's many friends in the community would continue to look in the coming days, Sgt Brooke said.

"It's been an incredible response and there's been so many people volunteering their time and help.

"We've had farmers, volunteer firefighters, members of rugby clubs, local business people and others from throughout the district all dropping everything to do their very best for Eroni and his family."

Ravaga Gaunavou was a midfield back for Puketoi. The Wairarapa-Bush premier division rugby match between Puketoi and Bush Sports on Saturday was postponed after the tragedy, the Wairarapa Times Age reported.