You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Family grieves over loss of tot in river

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 10/06/2016

The parents of a two-year-old girl swept away in a flooded West Coast river say she was a cheeky little girl who loved the outdoors.

Emily Saunders has been missing since the 4WD vehicle she was in with her parents and two men became submerged while crossing the swollen Poerua River, near Harihari, south of Hokitika, on Thursday.

On Friday police recovered the body of Barry Petrie, 66, and local iwi representatives blessed the area.

Media report the family drove across the river to pick the men up and the vehicle became submerged on the way back. They had all got out of the vehicle and one of the men was carrying Emily when she was swept away.

Her parents, Sandra and Michael, released a statement via police on Saturday saying the efforts of Mr Petrie to try to save Emily would never be forgotten.

"Our thoughts are with Barry's family as well at this time.

"Our daughter Emily was a happy, cheeky little girl who loved the outdoors. She will be missed by her mum and dad and her older sisters Tiffany and Natalie and all who knew her."

Mr Petrie was reported to be an experienced bushman and was involved with search and rescue.

The family is thanking those who've helped in the search for Mr Petrie and their daughter.

Despite earlier thinking there would be no search during the weekend due to poor weather, a helicopter and rescue dog team were sent out on Saturday morning.

But efforts were called off before 1pm due to worsening conditions, and police say with a severe weather warning in place for the region, it's uncertain when the search will resume.

Emily's parents originally come from England and they sharemilk on a farm near where the tragedy occurred.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon