False alarm in search for missing surfer

Crews searching for an Irishman who went missing while surfing off Australia’s coast since Saturday morning thought a helicopter sighting had yielded a clue to his whereabouts, only to find it was a false alarm.

According to Byron Shire News, the local newspaper in Byron Bay where 20 year-old Stuart Butler went missing, a helicopter spotted what appeared to be blood on the rocks beside where he had been surfing.

However, when ground crews, including police, went to the spot on foot, they found the blood appeared to have come from a fish which had been caught and scaled.

A third day of searching failed to give searchers any more leads as to the Santry native’s location. Rescue crews were again forced to call off the search due to bad weather.

Mr Butler was one of three surfers who took to the water on Saturday morning. Just before 11am, a member of the public rang the emergency services after spotting the surfers had got into difficulty in a rip tide.

One of the other surfers, a 26-year-old, was rescued from the water by a local surf club lifesaver on a jetski a short distance away from where they had got into difficulty. He was uninjured.

Another 20-year-old surfer was found by rescuers along the cliff face, clinging to rocks. He had suffered minor injuries.

The newspaper, News, quoted police inspector Bobbie Cullen as saying officials are keeping Mr Butler’s family in Australia updated on the search and they are relaying news to family members in Ireland.

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