THE family of missing Irish surfer Stuart Butler yesterday issued a statement thanking the local community and emergency services for their
support in the search for their son, and said they were "full of hope" that he would be found.
The 20-year-old went missing in huge swells while surfing at Tallow Beach on Saturday morning after he and two friends were caught in a rip and swept by the
current on to the rocky base of Cape Byron at Cosy Corner.
His two mates, 25-year-old US traveller Levi Fahrenholtz and 20-year-old English traveller Mike Fuller, survived the huge swell, but rescue workers have so far been unable to locate Mr Butler's body despite five days of a
multi-agency air, water and land search.
The search has been scaled down to a coastal watch and police divers from Sydney are expected to arrive on Saturday.
"We'd like to say a huge and heartfelt thankyou on behalf of Stuart's family both here and back in Ireland for the support we have received from the local community," a family spokesperson said yesterday in a statement issued by the Tweed Byron Local Area Command
"In particular, the local police in Byron Bay and
Tweed Heads, the Queensland Police Helicopter, Surf Life Saving North Coast, Brunswick Volunteer Rescue Association and Australian Maritime Search Authority.
"We appreciate all of the efforts made to help find Stuart.
"We would also like to make special mention of Mojosurf and to the Arts Factory for their continued support, and their efforts to make us comfortable, during this difficult time.
"We are full of hope that he will be returned to us and ask all to keep him in their thoughts and prayers."
The three friends had travelled to Byron Bay last Thursday from Arrawarra, north of Coffs Harbour, where they had met while staying at the Mojosurf-owned SpotX campsite.
They had intended to trial as surf photographers for Mojosurf in Byron Bay and were staying at the surf school's base at the Arts Factory while they looked for a house to rent.