By Melissa Wishart
The search has been called off after a swimmer was swept away in a rip near Wellington on Saturday.
Twenty-four year old Albert Alapati and four of his companions were caught in the rip around 4pm.
While the others were saved, rescuers were unable to bring Alapati to safety.
Jason Wilson-Haenga, a Titahi Bay surfer told Fairfax media that he saw the group get caught in the rip, so paddled over and gave his board to a girl, who was holding onto Alapati by his shorts.
Wilson-Haenga grabbed Alapiti, “Hugging him like you would a baby.”
“I was hugging on to him front on, so I could see his face. When you look at someone like that when they’re just about gone … if I had been on dry land I probably could have saved him,” he said.
“Another surfer came over, and just as that happened another big wave hit us and ripped the guy out of my hands. When I came back to the surface, he had disappeared.”
“I’m just so sad I couldn’t bring that boy back.”
Today, after a land, marine and aerial search showed no results, it was called off.
A rāhui has been placed upon the beach for up to a month by local kaumatua Taku Parae, making the area off limits.