Saturday, September 24, 2022

Five dead in New Zealand after possible whale collision capsizes boat | New Zealand

Five people have died after a boat carry bird enthusiasts capsized in New Zealand, police have said, possibly after the vessel collided with a whale.

Eleven people were aboard the 8.5-metre 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.

Craig Mackle, the mayor of Kaikōura, told national broadcaster RNZ it was believed the boat collided with a whale. Police said there was a collision but had yet to ascertain its cause.

Sergeant Matt Boyce said it was an “unprecedented event” and a tragedy and that police were supporting those involved, according to the New Zealand Herald. Police were working to formally identify the dead.

Mackle had said a group of women aged over 50 were on board at the time, and sea conditions were 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 earlier told news site Stuff there was a “sick feeling” among those waiting for more news.

Mackle had 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 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.

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.

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