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Victim fell off cliff, can’t be found

NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, April 28, 2010) - An American woman Gayle Lee (59) who fell off Hufangalupe cliff at Vaini, Tongatapu, Tonga on April 22 is presumed dead, after three days of searching in both land and sea in the surrounding area has failed to locate her body.

Deputy Commander of the Tonga Police Taniela Faletau in his Crime Report this week confirmed that the search, which began on Friday April 23 combining both land sea search, was called off on around 3:30pm in the afternoon on Monday, April 26.

He said the Tonga Defence Service vessel that helped with the search last Friday found a piece of clothing in the ocean that was confirmed by the victim's husband to have been worn by his wife.

The search included not only the ocean in the area but extended to nearby coastal areas at Fua'amotu and Tokomololo.

The Deputy Commander said according to reports he had received the victim stood near the edge of the cliff when she fell. "But we are still receiving reports from eyewitnesses," he added.

Gayle a member of the Nursing Faculty from the Brigham Young University (BYU), Idaho, from the United States was leading 24 nursing students on a two weeks trip to Tonga on a humanitarian mission.

Arriving in Tonga on Saturday April 17 the group was originally scheduled to return to the US on April 30, but due to the tragedy they are returning home on Tuesday, April 28.

Mele'ana Ta'ai the Tongan nurse who was liaising with the BYU team said eyewitnesses told her that Gayle fell into a hole on the left hand side of the cliff approach area.

She said they stopped at the area, which the victim was familiar with since she had visited Hufangalupe many times on her previous visits to Tonga.

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