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'Happy, cheeky little girl' - Family of Emily Saunders thank search teams for efforts

The family of a two-year-old swept from a 4WD while crossing a swollen West Coast river yesterday have thanked search and rescue teams for their efforts.

Emily Saunder's parents today issued a statement paying tribute to their little girl.

The search for two-year-old Emily Saunders swept from a 4WD while crossing a swollen West Coast river has been suspended today. Source: Supplied

"Our daughter Emily was a happy, cheeky little girl who loved the outdoors. She will be missed by her mum and dad and her older sisters Tiffany and Natalie and all who knew her," the statement read.

Yesterday, police had called off the search to find Emily until Monday, due to bad weather.

But it resumed this morning with a helicopter scanning the area for any sightings of Emily, backed up by a Land Search and Rescue search dog. 

Sergeant Paul Watson says they are still searching for two-year-old Emily Saunders.

The weather is expected to worsen over the weekend and police say it will be a factor in any search efforts undertaken over the next two days.

This afternoon the body of Barry Petrie was recovered by searchers who are still looking for Emily.

The Saunders family also acknowledged Mr Petrie in their statement, saying their "thoughts are with Barry's family".

"His efforts trying to save Emily will never be forgotten."

Five people were travelling in a four-wheel-drive when it got into difficulty attempting to cross Poerua River.

A two-year-old girl and 66-year-old man were swept from their vehicle which had difficulty crossing the Poerua River. Source: 1 NEWS

Three managed to make it to safety but Mr Petrie, 66, and the toddler never made it to shore.

Emily's parents are an English couple working as sharemilkers on a farm owned by Frank and Anne Simpson, on One One Rd.

Yesterday, the three family members went to pick up two possum trappers on the other side of the river, including Mr Petrie from Greymouth, and when they came back across the river they became trapped in the fast-rising water.

Emily’s mother and father escaped and her mother went to the Simpson’s farm to get help.

A 66-year-old man and two-year-old girl are still missing after the 4wd vehicle got into trouble in the Poerua River. Source: 1 NEWS

Sergeant Paul Watson from police search and rescue says extensive aerial, water and land based squads have been looking for the missing pair.

The water level in the Poerua River remains high and it is continuing to rain.

"This is a particularly hard time for everyone involved," area commander of West Coast, Inspector Mel Aitken said.

A two-year-old girl is still missing after the four-wheel-drive she was travelling in was stuck crossing a river on Thursday. Source: 1 NEWS

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