Missing Tauranga man: Gregg Shaw’s brother feared the worst

Michael Shaw remembers hearing his older brother Gregg leave early on Christmas morning.

Gregg was driving from his Pāpāmoa home he shares with Michael to spend the day with family in Gisborne. Except he did not make it.

The final departure was the last known activity of Gregg for nearly three days before he was found at the bottom of a bank in isolated Matawai yesterday. As a Christmas Eve baby, Gregg had just had his birthday the day before.

Michael said he remembered hearing Gregg calling his sister in Gisborne and leaving at 5.30am, “as he was meant to”.

Michael then went back to sleep. It wasn’t until hours later he saw that he had missed calls from their sister.

“I thought ‘holy hell, she’s probably calling to wish me a merry Christmas and all of that’. But they had been trying to get a hold of me because Gregg hadn’t turned up. They had already come through the gorge looking for him.”

In the days that followed, police issued a public plea for any sightings of Gregg or his brown Mazda Atenza and expressing their concern for his welfare. The family paid for helicopters to search the route Gregg was believed to have taken and other searchers combed the area north of Gisborne for any sign.

Michael said those first 24 hours were “awful”.

“Let me tell you, it never seems a very long time when it’s someone else but 24 hours when your brother is missing, in a car somewhere, possibly sinking or upside down, it’s an important period of time when a person needs help.”

Michael’s mind went to some dark places.

“I was very worried. With the first day I’m thinking ‘where the hell is he?’ He hadn’t been found. I started having these ‘what the hell’ scenarios play out in my head, like that he’s been hijacked at a service station by a bunch of young thugs. It’s not out of the question. And that gets into your head.

“I was still expecting that he’d be found but that he’d be dead. Three days, what happens in three days?

“In the States, people go for drives on Christmas Day and go off the road, and you don’t found them at all until the thaw.”

Gregg was miraculously found injured but alive by the family search party just after 4pm yesterday, down a bank off the side of State Highway 2 near Matawai, a settlement about an hour north of Gisborne. The area is one of the North Island’s more isolated areas and Michael believed his brother would have had his phone ready and charged but no signal to call for help.

The highway was closed between Cemetery Rd and Rakauroa Rd to allow the Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter to from Hawkes Bay to land and take Gregg to Gisborne Hospital.

Gregg was still in his wrecked car and firefighters scrambled down the bank and cut the roof off the car to get to him.

Michael said he was incredibly relieved and looked forward to seeing his brother again.

Michael admitted his phone was unreliable and he has not been able to speak with the rest of the family since Gregg was found.

A police spokeswoman confirmed Gregg was injured but was “okay” when discovered.

“Police would like to thank all those who assisted with our enquiries and got in touch with information during the search for the man.”

Gregg is now in a stable condition at Gisborne Hospital.

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