Missing Korean Piha fisherman: Family clinging to hope man still alive, friend says

The family of a Korean fisherman, missing for almost a month since falling off Camel Rock in Piha, is still clinging to hope that he may be found alive.

“Without a body found yet, the family are still hopeful for a miracle,” said the friend, who did not want to be named.

On Friday, Auckland-based Korean consul and police attache In Kyong Kim led a group of Korean community leaders on a drowning prevention training at Muriwai Beach conducted by Drowning Prevention Auckland.

The friend, who was among the group who attended the training, would not say much more other than that the family of the missing man had asked for privacy.

A police spokesman told the Herald the fisherman reported missing off Piha in April has not yet been located.

“He is still officially listed as a missing person,” the spokesman said.

“At this stage police are unable to release the man’s name publicly for privacy reasons.”

Consul Kim confirmed the missing fisherman was a Korean citizen who held New Zealand permanent residence and had a family in Auckland.

The Korean Embassy was providing support and assistance to the family, she said. The family also asked for privacy and for the missing man not to be named.

A local Korean community leader Stanley Park said he did not know the missing man, but felt “sad for the family”.

“Koreans in New Zealand love to fish, but many don’t realise that the conditions here is very different to what it is back in Korea,” Park said.

“I think what is really sad is that a lot of these drownings and water incidents are actually preventable.”

Drowning Prevention Auckland operations manager James Lea said he got the callout about the missing fisherman just after 5am on Tuesday, April 20.

“It was dark, and he had been out fishing with another friend who raised the alarm after the man fell and got swept into the water,” Lea said.

“The man, we were told, was not wearing any flotation devices and I don’t believe he had any head torch on.”

The Eagle and Westpac Rescue helicopters joined the search, and the Piha Surf Club also got involved – but large swells of up to 2.5m hindered the water rescue efforts that day.

Searchers had returned several times to Piha since, but they have not been able to find him.

The Korean angler had been fishing off Camel Rock next to the Keyhole.

Madison Chang, Drowning Prevention’s Asian community adviser, said the incident reflected a lack of knowledge among many migrant communities here about New Zealand’s coastal conditions.

“Many in these communities tend to underestimate the risks, and don’t think much about going fishing without a life jacket or never to wear gumboots,” Chang said.

The New Zealand Surf Life Saving National Beach and Coastal Safety Report released in March showed fatal drownings in coastal zones had increased by 18 per cent over the past five years.

Most of these were preventable.

The average drowning rate went from 0.74 per 100,000 people in the five-year period from 2010 to 2015, to 0.83 per 100,000 people between 2015 and 2020. Over this period, there was an average of 39 fatal drownings per year.

From the report, Pasifika and Māori were overrepresented – but Chang said Chinese, Korean and Filipino were the top three Asian communities that featured highly in water rescue incidents.

Chang said incidents of fishermen falling off the rocks were happening far too often and there was a need for additional education resources targeting these communities.

The missing fisherman incident was the third near Piha’s Keyhole in recent months.

On Easter Sunday, a fisherman was given first aid after being washed off the rocks and last October, three people were swept out of the Keyhole and were rescued by the Piha Emergency Callout Squad using an IRB.

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