Backpackers Missing In Surf For Two Days 'Could Well Be Alive'

Two young backpackers, who’ve been missing for two and half days in waters off Port Macquarie “could well be alive”, police said.

A large sea and land search continue for Frenchman Erwin Ferrieux, 21 and his English friend Hugo Palmer, 20, who are believed to have gone for a swim at Shelly Beach late on Sunday, and then disappeared.

The alarm was raised when their towels, thongs, car keys and glasses were found by early morning walkers just after dawn on Monday.

The two travellers were last seen alive at lunchtime on Sunday.

“I re-iterate, at the moment this is strictly a search operation,” Chief Inspector Peter Neville told 10 News First on Wednesday morning.

“From some of the discussions we’ve had this morning, we honestly believe that these people could well be alive.”

Three police boats, police divers, jet skis and drones are searching up to three nautical miles out from Shelly Beach and south to Lighthouse Beach and Tacking Point.

SES crews and Rural Fire Service volunteers are continuing to scour the land, in case the young men managed to make it back to shore.

“We haven’t closed our mind to any possibility, so the searches of land, beaches, headlands, rocky foreshore areas: that is typical of what we do in these situations,” said Chief Inspector Neville.

The car belonging to the missing men, found at Shelly Beach on Monday. Photo: Supplied

Ferrieux and Palmer had been travelling Australia for three months and were making their way up the east coast. The Holden Commodore station wagon they’d converted into a camper-vehicle was found by police in the Shelly Beach carpark with their passports inside.

“The families of both young men have been informed about what’s occurred here in Australia and we’ve also been able to keep them appraised of what our search operations and plans are,” Neville said, but he revealed their relatives did not yet have plans to travel to Australia.

Two young friends of the missing men speak to police at Shelly Beach. Photo: Daniel Sutton

Two young female backpackers who knew the missing men were seen speaking with detectives at the beach on Wednesday morning.

“Those two young women — they are from overseas as well — they are friends of the missing men, they were in Sydney at the time these gentlemen went missing.”

“They were due to meet with them in Port Macquarie and have travelled here today to not only support the operation but their friends.”

The police command post at Shelly Beach. Photo: Daniel Sutton

Rough and windy conditions hampered search operations yesterday, but he said seas were calmer this morning.

“This is an operation that at the moment we will continue throughout today, during the day we will reassess the results of what we achieve through our searches.”

“We will also consult with our experts about search and survivability and those sorts of things and we’ll make assessments throughout the day, but at this stage, we have not put a time frame on the conclusion of the search.”