Kaikōura tragedy: Five dead after boat capsizes off Goose Bay in calm, “flat” conditions


Five people have died after a boat with 11 people on board capsized off Goose Bay, near Kaikoura. Photo / Provided

A photography company has spoken of the “tragic loss” of five of its members in a boating accident in Kaikoura.

The group’s vessel capsized off Goose Bay yesterday.

“The Nature Photography Society of New Zealand is saddened by the tragic loss at sea in Kaikoura on a society member voyage which claimed the lives of 5 of our members,” the group said on its Facebook page this morning. .

“We do not yet know what caused the vessel to capsize and it is something that will be addressed by Maritime NZ in due course.

“In the meantime, our hearts go out to the families of the members of the company who lost their lives.”

Shortly after 10am on Saturday, an 8.5m boat, with 11 people on board, capsized in “perfect and flat” conditions after apparently hitting a whale.

Police could not confirm it was a whale that tipped the boat over, saying the vessel had collided with ‘something’, but they were speaking to a number of people to find out what happened. had passed.

However, earlier today, Kaikōura Mayor Craig Mackle said he believed the boat had hit a whale.

Six people were reported alive, with one person suffering minor injuries.

They were taken to hospital before being returned to their accommodation, police told media at a news conference shortly after 5pm yesterday.

The police dive team recovered the five people found dead in the vessel, Sergeant Matt Boyce said.

“We are in the process of identifying these people and our next task is to notify their relatives.”

He said it was an “unprecedented event” which involved a significant response from emergency services and members of the public.

“This is a tragic event and the police are supporting those involved at this very difficult time,” Boyce said.

The passengers are believed to have been part of a group of bird watchers who hired a charter boat to visit areas of interest.

“I believe they had come from all parts of the country,” Boyce said.

A local Kaikōura resident who witnessed the scene said he knew one of the victims – who was linked to their son’s school.

She went to shore to help with the search.

“It wasn’t much, but more than I added being at home.

It was difficult to see clearly along the coast due to the large number of seals lying along the rocks, she said.

“It will be a horrible time for families and it will be felt throughout our immediate community tonight and for years to come,” she said.

“We didn’t even lose five people in our 2016 earthquake.”

Police could not say by whom the charter was operated. The captain went to hospital but police do not believe he was injured.

The pilot of the first rescue helicopter on the scene said he did not see anyone in the water when he arrived.

“It’s a terrible thing – it’s something you don’t want to see with people in the water,” said Kaikōura pilot Daniel Stevenson.

Just before he arrived, a pleasure craft arrived on the scene and grabbed the first group of people who were outside the boat and brought them back to Kaikoura.

According to Stevenson, five people were rescued and one person remained seated on the overturned hull of the boat.

The Coast Guard arrived soon after. They jumped into the water but couldn’t get under the boat and asked for a diver.

Stevenson returned to Kaikōura, picked up a diver, and hovered alongside the overturned ship.

“They jumped in the water out of the helicopter to see if there was anyone stuck inside the ship,” Stevenson said.

The mayor said it was a tragic event that affected many lives, including family and loved ones.

“Our deepest sadness and condolences to you all.”

Mackle said he wanted to thank everyone involved in the rescue and recovery.

“Being able to bring everyone home is the best outcome in such dire circumstances.”

The whales were resident and had been seen in the area, Mackle said.

Sea conditions at the time were “perfect, flat”, he said.

When asked if the boat was overloaded, Mackle said he couldn’t answer.

The coast guard echoed a “tragic operation”.

“Our thoughts are with the friends and family of the deceased,” the coastguard said.

Richard Hill of fish and chip shop Cods and Crays told RNZ he had previously worked with the skipper on the boat.

“He’s a very safe man, he doesn’t take any risks.

“So there must just be something, some kind of freak of nature, I would have thought. A very sad day for Kaikōura really, just a shock,” Hill said.

Maritime NZ senior researcher Tracy Phillips said the organization sent two investigators from Christchurch to Kaikoura.

“Any investigative activity will only begin after the rescue/recovery operations have been completed. We will carry out a thorough investigation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Shipping Act and we will do everything our best to support the New Zealand Police in their investigation.”

Kaikoura District Councilor Lisa Bond said the incident was “incredibly heartbreaking”.

The South Bay slipway was closed to the public while police responded.

A reporter on the Goose Bay shore said at 1.45pm he could see three boats, two of which appeared to be Coast Guard vessels, and four helicopters near the capsized vessel.

Three rescue helicopters were sent to the scene, one from Wellington and two Westpac rescue helicopters from Christchurch.

An image on social media showed a number of people on top of the overturned boat, waiting to be rescued.

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