Sunday 21 December 2014

Search for missing Irish surfer updated to 'body recovery operation'

Published 22/07/2014 | 21:05

Stuart Butler
Stuart Butler

The search in Australia for missing Irish surfer Stuart Butler has been updated to a body recovery operation.

Police divers are expected to arrive in the area later this week to join the search when the sea conditions improve.

The 20-year-old, from Santry, Dublin, got into difficulty surfing off Cape Byron on Saturday.

Stuart was joined by friends Levi Fahrenholtz (25) from Seattle in the US, and Mike Fuller (19) from England in the popular backpacker and tourist resort in northern New South Wales.

An aerial view of Byron Bay where an Irish man went missing

The three men went out surfing together before getting caught in rip, which is a stretch of turbulent water, and thrown against rocks.

Mike succeeded in getting to the rocks but Levi was swept out to sea, only to be rescued around the Cape.

The search for Stuart began in the early hours of this morning again today, Australian police told local newspaper Northern Star.

"The man is listed as a missing person and we will continue to search for him," Sgt Jack Keough of Tweed/Byron Local Area Command said.

"However, this is now a body recovery operation."

The sergeant also said that sea conditions are still too dangerous for the New South Wales Police Diving Unit at the moment but they will arrive in the area on Thursday or Friday.

The sergeant also confirmed that foam surfboard fragments found on Monday during a search on the rocks belonged to one of the surviving surfers.

"We have been searching from Cosy Corner to Broken Head; Byron Bay to Brunswick Heads and from the North Wall at Brunswick Heads to Cudgen and Byron Marine Rescue have been maintaining an observation point from Cape Byron," Sgt Keogh said.

He added that the National Parks and Wildlife Service had also been notified to be on the look-out for any sign of the missing surfer and his board.

Police also said Stuart Butler’s family in Ireland are being updated constantly with the search results.

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