No sign of Irish surfer missing off Australian coast

Search for Stuart Butler off Byron Bay suspended for day as police say it is ‘recovery’

Irish surfer Stuart Butler is missing off Byron Bay.

Irish surfer Stuart Butler is missing off Byron Bay.

Tue, Jul 22, 2014, 10:01

The search for an Irish surfer missing off the east coast of Australia since last Saturday has been suspended for the day.

The Dublin man, who has been named locally as Stuart Butler (20), went missing while surfing with two friends off Cape Byron in northern New South Wales.

Local police say it is now a recovery operation, but bad weather and very low winter temperatures have hampered the search.

Today’s search began at around 7.30am local time (10.30pm Monday, Irish time), and ended as darkness fell in the early evening.

A local police officer told The Irish Times that: “The searches will continue through the week.”

The Irish embassy in Canberra is offering consular assistance to Mr Butler’s family. It is understood that some of his relatives who live in Melbourne have flown to Byron Bay.

Inspector Bobbie Cullen of the Tweed-Byron police force said they are keeping Mr Butler’s family updated on the search.

Extreme conditions are expected to ease tomorrow, which will allow for an underwater search by police divers at the base of the cliffs near where Mr Butler went missing.

Temperatures have been as low as two degrees overnight and Mr Butler was not wearing a wetsuit.

His two companions, American Levi Fahrenholtz (25) and English man Mike Fuller (19) were rescued.

Mr Fahrenholtz spoke with the local Northern Star newspaper about his friend ‘Stuey’.

“I had known him for six weeks and he was always positive; constantly laughing and making jokes - he was fun and goofy,” he said.

“Stuey had been to Byron Bay earlier this year and it was his idea to come up here again. He’d had fun here.”

Mr Fahrenholtz said they did not fear going in the water on Saturday. “The waves didn’t even seem huge … It wasn’t the size of the waves, it was more that it looked choppy. I thought I might get thrashed around, but it was going to be fun.”

“We weren’t looking to prove anything,” he said.

But they found themselves in difficulty within minutes.

“We had just paddled out to the first break and then we were suddenly in the gutter getting dragged out,” he said. “We couldn’t paddle against [the rip]; it was too strong.”

The search for Mr Butler will resume at first light.