The wreckage of a rental car belonging to 24-year-old McMaster alumna Joanna Lam and her boyfriend, Connor Hayes, 25, was discovered in a gorge off the Haast Pass road, towards the western coast of South Island in New Zealand on Sept. 10. The investigation is on going, but one body, presumed to be Lam’s, was discovered near where the car’s fuel tank washed up.
Bad weather near the time of their disappearance has left the police suspecting that the vehicle was hit by a landslide and swept away in high-moving waters. A reporter for Radio New Zealand, Ceinwen Curtis, is covering the case. She reported seeing boulders the size of houses that were left behind from the landside on the same stretch of road where the couple had been travelling.
However, police spokeswoman Barbara Dunn told CBC Hamilton, “Until we get some evidence, we don’t know; we’ve got a serious crash investigation underway, but at this stage… we are keeping very much an open mind as to what’s happened.”
The rescue team, now consisting of a heat-searching helicopter, a specialist search dog, and a search and rescue boat is attempting to find Hayes.
A friend of Lam’s, Tamara Sagadore, told CBC, “I think it’s just really difficult because everything’s so unknown, especially because it’s from such a distance. I spoke with her right before she left, and she was just so excited and optimistic, and now this happening. It’s almost unfathomable.”
The families say it was especially unfortunate as the couple was in New Zealand on their way to Lam’s new position as a medical imaging specialist for the radiology department at Nelson Hospital. Lam graduated from McMaster in June 2010 with a degree in Medical Radiation Sciences.
The search continues, but police have yet to find any clues as to Hayes’ whereabouts. The families await official news from the Tasman District New Zealand Police on both Hayes’ whereabouts, and the official medical records.