‘He was my mate’ – Father mourns son who died in boating tragedy

One of the men killed in the Far North fishing boat tragedy worried about the weather forecast before setting off on the trip, his devastated father says.

By John Edwards of rnz.co.nz

Te Awamutu builder Mark Sanders, 43, was one of 10 people on board the Enchanter charter boat when it sank off the North Cape in a severe storm on Sunday evening.

Five people, including skipper Lance Goodhew and crew member Kobe O’Neill, were rescued by helicopter after four hours in the water and have since been discharged from Kaitaia hospital.

Four bodies have been recovered and the search for the fifth person will resume this morning.

Graeme Sanders said his son was a father of three, a talented sportsman and an avid fisherman.

He spoke to her for the last time when he shook her hand and wished her well as he embarked on an adventure he had been looking forward to for two years.

Sanders said his son told him he might have to cut the fishing trip short due to poor weather forecasts.

“He was worried about the forecast for the last day or while he was fishing. He told me before he left – ‘the forecast doesn’t look good, we may have to come back earlier’.”

A weather warning was issued on Saturday morning, two days after the Enchanter departed from Mangonui on a five-day voyage to the Three Kings Islands north of Cape Reinga.

A rogue wave reportedly hit the boat near Murimotu Island, breaking the bridge.

The alarm was first raised when an emergency locator beacon was triggered around 8pm on Sunday evening.

Sanders said he had hoped his son was among five survivors of the ordeal.

“He was wearing a life jacket, but it still didn’t save him,” he said.

“We’re glad they got his body back and we just have to tow the line and see what happens from now on.”

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission launched an investigation into the sinking and a rahui was imposed along part of the coast.

Te Aupouri iwi leader Penetauri Kleskovic said the weather conditions were terrible this weekend.

“Those who were rescued, it’s a miracle they survived,” he said.

“Any cape can be treacherous and Murimotu, near where the boat sank, is well known to us. Historically, we have had tragedies there before.”

Diveworks Charters owner and former Echanter skipper Phil van Dusschoten said the boat was originally intended for deep-sea fishing, so it was built very well.

“I actually thought this boat could have handled the perfect storm,” he said.

“It looks like it’s pretty badly damaged the top of the boat, I saw a report that said it broke the boat, which is absolutely amazing.”

Van Dusschoten said Lance Goodhew was a “very competent and capable skipper, a very active and very aggressive angler”.

He said a trip to the Three Kings Islands was a “must do” item for serious New Zealand anglers, at an estimated cost of $2,000 per person.

Maritime New Zealand said rescue teams had battled squalls hampering their efforts to find the missing person, but favorable conditions were forecast today.

Graeme Sanders said he will remember his son Mark as a loving family man.

“He was a good bugger. He wasn’t just my son, he was my buddy,” he said.

“I never went fishing with anyone but him.”

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