5 dead after fishing boat collides with whale in New Zealand during bird viewing near South Island town of Kaikōura. Six people rescued.
Eleven people were aboard the 8.5-metre (28 ft) boat when it capsized on Saturday morning in Goose Bay near the South Island town of Kaikōura, police said. Six people were rescued and five bodies were recovered from inside the vessel by police divers.
The boat involved is understood to belong to local fishing charter business, Fish Kaikoura. Its owners didn’t want to comment. The business hosts a variety of fishing tours, and its skipper was very experienced, according to its website.
Read the site in part: ‘Our Skipper has over 12 years experience with Charter fishing in Kaikoura, plus 5 years commercial fishing off the Canterbury coast.’
Craig Mackle, the mayor of Kaikōura, told RNZ it was believed the boat collided with a whale. Police said there was a collision but had yet to ascertain its cause.
Mackle said he’d thought in the past about the possibility of a boat and whale colliding, given the number of whales that frequent the region.
‘It always plays on your mind that it could happen,’ he said, adding that he hadn’t heard about any previous such accidents.
Sergeant Matt Boyce said it was an ‘unprecedented event’ and a tragedy and that police were supporting those involved, according to the NZ Herald. Police were working to formally identify the dead.
Mackle told media a group of women aged over 50 were on board at the time, with sea conditions calm. It is believed the group – who had come from across New Zealand – were on a boat belonging to a local fishing charter business.
Mackle said he believed the boat collided with a whale rather than a log because a log would punch a hole in the vessel rather than capsize it.
Vanessa Chapman told NZ’s Stuff she and a group of friends had watched the rescue efforts unfold from Goose Bay. She said that when she arrived at a lookout spot, she could see a person sitting atop an overturned boat waving their arms.
She said two rescue helicopters and a third local helicopter were circling before two divers jumped out.
The person atop the boat was rescued and a second person appeared to have been pulled from the water, Chapman said.
The conditions were ‘absolutely calm – a wee bit of a roll’, she said.
By 4pm the boat, previously seen upside down in the water, was being towed to shore. The bodies had been found in the boat’s cabin.
Maritime NZ had sent two investigators from Christchurch to Kaikōura. An investigation into what seemingly appeared to be a freak accident would begin only after rescue/recovery operations were finished.
Kaikoura is a popular whale-watching destination. The seafloor drops away precipitously from the coast, making for deep waters close to the shore. A number of businesses offer boat trips or helicopter rides so tourists can see whales, dolphins and other sea creatures up close.