The family of 14-year-old Vinnie Beecroft, who went missing after swimming at a Dunedin beach on Thursday, have expressed gratitude to the "brave and heroic" efforts to help.
In a statement, relative Kathy Peters said a group of boys had spent the afternoon having fun in and around the water at St Clair Beach and "enjoying the day, when tragedy struck".
But the family is still hopeful, she said.
"[They are] still holding onto hope that Vinnie will be found, but acknowledge this is becoming increasingly unlikely as the hours pass.
"Unfortunately, Vinnie’s immediate family have endured a number of tragic events over the years and are trying to cope with the current situation as best they can."
Ms Peters said Vinnie's family wanted to "express their utmost gratitude for the efforts that have been made by everyone in the search.
"Very special thoughts and thanks go to the young boys who were there with Vinnie at the time, their efforts were truly brave and heroic in their bid to help Vinnie when he got into difficulty at Seconds Cliff on Thursday afternoon.
"A special thanks to NZ Search and Rescue, Police, Victim Support, Surf Life Saving NZ, especially at St Clair, and all others involved."