A family who went missing in a remote area of New Zealand’s North Island three weeks ago have been found.
Police gave up on their search for the family after 12 days, with the family’s last sighting coming on September 11th at Marokopa on the island’s west coast.
Tom Phillips and his three children, Jayda, 8, Maverick, 6, and Ember, 5, have been located safe and well, according to New Zealand police who confirmed their safety on Thursday.
The rescue effort for the family began on the 12th of September, when the Phillips’ car was found on a nearby Kiritehere beach during a poor spell of weather.
Police suspended the search last week, after a 12-day operation failed to locate the four.
On Wednesday came a major break through after four riding bikes were found on a nearby road at 5:30 am (local time).
“This was unusual,” NZ police’s Waikato West area Commander Inspector Will Loughrin said.
“We deployed a fixed wing plane and drones, but they were not located.” Instead, the four turned up unexpectedly at the farm the next day.
“As Dad said, ‘I just hope he walks in,’ and he has. This is the best-case scenario,” Mr Phillips’ sister Rozzi Pethybridge told Newshub on Thursday.
Police spent Thursday afternoon questioning Mr Phillips, with Inspector Loughrin answering some questions about their getaway.
“We’re speaking with them to clarify their movements,” he said.
“The area they were likely living in was around 15km south…they were using a tent. They were in a dense bush area.
“We know from the family and our search he was an experienced bushman and had the capability to look after himself.”
With everyone safe and well, Inspector Loughrin reflected on the remarkable and unexpected end to the lengthy search effort. “It is extraordinary,” he said.
“It is the scenario we had hoped … to happen this way, it is fantastic for the family.
“It is a family that experienced 17 days of hell. This is a community that experienced 17 days of hell wondering what had happened.”
Image: Waikato Police
This article first appeared on Over60.