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Three missing after rock climbing accident in New Zealand

NEW PLYMOUTH, NEW ZEALAND (BNO NEWS) -- Two teenagers and an instructor remain missing after a group of rock climbers fell off a rock and were swept away by rough seas on the North Island of New Zealand, police said. One other person was rescued by helicopter and taken to hospital.

The incident occurred at around 1:20 p.m. local time on Wednesday when a group of eleven teenagers and two instructors were rock climbing on the side of Paritutu Rock, which is located near Black Beach in the city of New Plymouth. Three of the students fell into the Tasman Sea.

Incident Controller Inspector Frank Grant said one of the instructors jumped into the water in an effort to save the students, but he too was swept away by the rough seas. However, one of the three students managed to cling onto a rock and was later winched to safety by a Taranaki Community Rescue Helicopter.

Grant said extensive searches have failed to find the missing trio. "High tide occurred at 8 p.m. this evening and searchers have been stood down for the night," he said. "We will resume again at first light. Police remain optimistic but given the rough sea conditions, the weather and the length of time the trio have been in the water, hopes of finding them alive are fading."

The student who was winched to safety was taken to Taranaki Base Hospital and treated for hypothermia but was released within hours. The remaining nine members of the group, who did not fall into the water, were also taken to hospital as a precaution but have all been discharged.

The missing trio has been identified as two 17-year-old Year 13 students from Spotswood College, one from the New Plymouth area and the other of Brazilian descent. The instructor who jumped into the water has been identified as a male in his early 40s, also from the New Plymouth area. Their names have not been released but their families have been informed.

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