The distraught sister of a man who is missing after being caught in a rip at a beach in regional South Australia yesterday says she is still hoping for a “one-in-a-million miracle”.

Key points:

  • Emergency services were called to Mary Ellis Beach on Friday afternoon
  • The sister of Roxby Downs man Dan Cojocea is desperately holding out hope
  • The search area has expanded and is being guided by tidal flows

Roxby Downs man Dan Cojocea was with family and friends yesterday afternoon when the group of seven was caught in the rip at Mary Ellis Beach near Sleaford, south-west of Port Lincoln.

While the others — including several children — managed to make it to safety, the 43-year-old father-of-four was unable to get to shore.

“One person was caught outside … in the breakers and disappeared from sight,” police superintendent Paul Bahr said.

Police and the State Emergency Service (SES) launched a significant aerial and ocean search involving a plane, police helicopter, drones and water craft.

Beach patrols have also been scouring stretches of coast.

SA Police said the search had ceased for today, but the operation would resume tomorrow.

Emergency services have conducted aerial, ground and ocean searches.(ABC News: Emma Pedler)

Mr Cojocea’s sister, Camelia Cantell, said her brother was holidaying with his family and friends on Eyre Peninsula.

“They just love holidaying. He loves the beach and he loves the outback, and they love coming here,” she said.

“They love this area. They often come here, and just an unfortunate event happened yesterday.

“We’re definitely still hoping for a miracle, and the more time that ticks by, the more we’re like, alright, a ‘one-in-a-million miracle’. He needs to be found, he needs to be found.”

Dan Cojocea is described as a “loving” father and “well-respected” friend.(Supplied)

Police said four children had been taken to a local hospital, but none suffered serious injuries.

Ms Cantell described Mr Cojocea, whom she said works in the mines at Roxby Downs, as a “good swimmer”.

She said Mr Cojocea’s wife was “trying to cope as best she can”.

“She had to spend the night in hospital with the kids,” she said.

Ms Cantell described her brother as her “best friend growing up”.

“He just makes friends really easily, he’s just friendly, people like him,” she said.

“He’s got a loving wife, he loves his kids, he’s got four kids that he absolutely adores, he’s a hard worker, he’s multi-skilled, he’s well-respected in Roxby.”

Ms Cantell praised the efforts of those involved in the search.(ABC News)

Superintendent Bahr, who is the officer-in-charge in the Eyre and Western Local Service Area, said “emergency services were alerted to swimmers in distress in the water” just after 4pm on Friday.

He said the search area has since expanded, and that those involved were using information about “tidal flow and drift … to guide the search areas”.

“It was quite windy [yesterday] and the waves were quite high and dumping quite severely, so it would have been difficult conditions for swimmers,” he said.

“At this stage, we’re only 20 hours in, the weather conditions are quite warm, the sea temperature is reasonably warm, I don’t think we want to be giving up hope.

“We have SES water craft out on the water at the moment.”

The search resumed at Mary Ellis Beach early this morning.(ABC News: Emma Pedler)

Ms Cantell said she was “really grateful” to those involved in the search and “so thankful that they’re still here”, and she also appealed to the public for any information about her brother.

“Any of the locals who are around — we would appeal to you, if you see anything, please can you contact the police,” she said.

“If they keep an eye out because, like I said, we’re believing in that one-in-a-million miracle where he’s just somewhere offshore, some random thing has happened, and he’s just maybe hurt his leg and bumped his head.”

Mary Ellis Beach is known locally as Wreck Beach.(ABC News: Emma Pedler)

Superintendent Bahr warned other holiday-makers and would-be swimmers in the area to take care.

“This is not the first time we’ve seen people get in distress in the water in this area,” he said.

“You really do need to understand that what you’re dealing with on this coastline is the Southern Ocean.

“It’s not protected, it is subject to all the vagaries of the ocean — the swell, the rips, the tides, those movements.

“You really need to be careful … if you’re entering the water in this area.”

Posted , updated