Canadians missing in N.Z. may have been in landslide

Photos of Joanna Lam of Kingston and her boyfriend Connor Hayes of Ottawa who are missing and...

Photos of Joanna Lam of Kingston and her boyfriend Connor Hayes of Ottawa who are missing and feared dead after being caught in a New Zealand landslide last week. (Handout photo/QMI AGENCY)

Ian MacAlpine, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:28 PM ET

KINGSTON, Ont. -- Police in New Zealand now believe that a van carrying two Canadians, one of them Joanna Lam of Kingston, may have been swept off a mountain road by a landslide.

Lam, 24, and her boyfriend, Connor Hayes, 25, of Ottawa, haven’t been heard from since Sept. 10.

Lam, a graduate of Kingston Collegiate and McMaster University, was to start a job as an X-ray technician in Nelson, New Zealand, on Monday, but didn’t check into her residence or report to work.

The couple had been touring the Fox Glacier on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

Sixteen police officers and volunteer searchers spent Wednesday searching for the couple in the Haast River.

The chassis and rear wheels of their rental van were found on Monday about 80 metres down the river gorge, and Wednesday evening local time a fuel tank believed to belong to the van was found washed up on the beach about 40 km away from where the vehicle is believed to have left the road.

The search team included two jet boat teams, ground searchers and a helicopter.

But there have been no signs of the couple.

“We will continue searching until we’ve covered off everything, but at this point things are not looking good for the survival of the pair,” John Canning of the Haast Police told a media briefing Wednesday in New Zealand.

Police were hoping to resume the search Thursday morning, weather permitting, and plan to bring in a helicopter with heat-detecting equipment as well as a search dog team.

The waiting for updates on the search has been very painful for the Lam family, said Joanna's brother Jeffrey Lam, 27.

Sitting around their living room in their west-end Kingston home, they agreed to speak to QMI Agency about the search.

“Keep in mind just to bring out the best in my sister,” Jeffrey said in a low voice. “If you ever lost one of your own, I don’t think anyone can feel the way we’re feeling with such a tragic event.

“Obviously, it isn’t easy for anybody’s family to be put into this scenario.

“It’s such a distance and the time delay and the waiting,” Lam said of the most difficult part of their ordeal.

Lam’s mother, Kitty, sits on the couch, barely able to speak, a tissue needed to wipe away persistent tears.

Hang, Joanna’s father, doesn’t speak as well, letting his sons Jeffrey and Jason, 32, do the talking.

Wednesday was supposed to be a day of celebration for Hang and Kitty Lam, the first official day of their retirement.


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