Abbey Caves Rescue: Why did a group of 15 students go for caving despite the weather warnings?

Abbey Caves Rescue
Student missing at Abbey cave


A high school student is stuck in Abbey caves in New Zealand due to extreme flooding and excessive rain. Let’s see more about Abbey Caves rescue in detail.

What happened to the NZ high school students?

Seventeen people went on a school trip in New Zealand. They went for excursion to Abbey Cave near Whangrei. Unfortunately, they got into difficulty due to the extreme weather and one of them is still missing.

The search for a missing student who was washed away has been put on hold by rescue personnel. 

Since initial reports were received at around 10.26 am this morning, Search and Rescue, Urban Search and Rescue (USAR), Fire and Emergency, and police have been looking for the missing Whangrei Boys’ High School student. 

The search will be suspended at 5 p.m., according to authorities. Police continued, “We can now confirm the group was made up of seventeen people in total. Fourteen students and two adults make up the group of those who are accounted for.

The search is likely to resume tomorrow at first light, and a cordon will be in place this evening and overnight.

Who is the missing student?

Thunderstorms hit the north of New Zealand’s North Island on Tuesday, causing flash floods and prompting Auckland’s mayor to declare a state of local emergency.

Two supervisors and 13 year 11 pupils were said to be trapped in a cave, according to local media. Most of them eventually managed to escape.

‘A group of people have since made it out safely, however, one student is currently unaccounted for,’ Northland Police stated.

When the group was stranded in a “severe weather event” at Abbey Caves, 160 km north of Auckland, the year 11 student went missing.

 ‘One of our students is currently missing after encountering the weather event. Search and rescue are currently searching for the young person,’ according to Whangarei Boys’ High School. 

The emergency services were called at 10.35 am to Abbey Caves, further north, close to Whangarei, where the tour group was having trouble. 

Kim Cuddy, a family member of the missing person requested for prayers on the Facebook post that reads,
“Whanau, I need prayers. My nephew is lost in abbey caves!”

The Year 11 outdoor education group is thought to have been at Organ Cave, which has been characterized as having a canyon-like feel.

A few others have now made it out safely, but one student is still missing, according to Hill. The father of the missing student showed signs of distress upon arriving at the caves, according to an Advocate reporter on the site.

There, another individual could be seen consoling him. Hill stated that the event was “still very much developing”.

Surface flooding has been reported as a result of the area’s severe thunderstorms and downpours.

Abbey Caves rescue:

The Northland District Commander, Superintendent Tony Hill, described the missing pupil as a “tragic incident” and said that “we understand many will be impacted by what has happened today.” 

“Our thoughts are with the friends and family of the unaccounted-for student and Family Liaison Officers and Victim Support have measures in place to look after them.”

The Whangrei District Council website states that Abbey Caves is vulnerable to flash flooding. Due to the area’s flooding from today’s rain, little streams have now become rivers.

Organ Cave is accessible only by scaling down several sizable rocks and boulders, and a torch is required to see inside its limestone walls. Police Land Search and Rescue has dispatched a specialized cave rescue team and Urban Search and Rescue (USAR), as well as a police dog handler.

Abbey caves rescue
Abbey caves rescue


To prevent access to the area, cordons are set up on either side of Abbey Caves Rd. Firefighters and ambulances were also present in the caves.

The Traumatic Incident Team of the Ministry of Education is also assisting Whangrei Boys’ High School. Police, according to Hill, will not speculate about what happened while this incident is still ongoing.

A thorough inquiry into the incident has been promised by the Northland school’s principal. 

School’s statement:

Karen Gilbert-Smith, the principal of Whangrei Boys’ High School, has issued a statement five hours after the Year 11 boy vanished in Whangrei’s Abbey Caves during torrential rain.

She explained in the statement, saying, “An event has occurred today that I want to inform you about, an event that is hugely upsetting for all concerned”

‘A year 11 Outdoor Education class attended Abbey Cave this morning on a caving trip and encountered a severe weather event. One of our students is currently missing after encountering the weather event.’, she added.

Those who managed to escape were assessed by paramedics before being brought back to the school for ‘additional medical assessment’ and being reunited with their families, according to Karen.

Abbey Caves rescue
Whangrei Boys’ High School’s Facebook statement


There are still unanswered questions regarding why the school was closed despite weather warnings. The incident, according to Gilbert-Smith, was “hugely upsetting” for her school. 

‘In time we will seek to understand how this situation occurred, but for now I ask that we stay united as a WBHS community and provide support where required,’ she added.

‘My thoughts and aroha are with all concerned, especially the whānau (family) of the young person who is missing.’

It was reported that Abbey Cave rescue continues tomorrow.


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