Four dead after New Zealand fishing boat sinks in bad weather

Photograph: David Fisher/AP

A fishing trip in New Zealand has ended in tragedy, with four people dead and one passenger still missing after their boat sank during wild weather.

The rescue operation began on Sunday evening after a charter fishing vessel activated an emergency beacon off the North Island’s North Cape. A helicopter was first on scene at the remote location, arriving at about 11.40pm but by 2.30am the boat had sunk.

Search and rescue crews winched five people to safety and transported them to Kaitāia hospital, but five passengers remained missing. Rescue operations were hampered as thunderstorms, swells and torrential downpours battered the region overnight, Maritime New Zealand spokesperson Nick Burt told RNZ.

Two bodies were recovered by rescue helicopter on Monday morning, with another two recovered by rescue boats, police said.

Rescue crews in the air, on the water and on shore were still searching for the final missing passenger, in an area covering about 300 sq nautical miles. The defence force sent an Orion aircraft and the navy ship HMNZS Taupō to assist the efforts.

“This is a significant rescue operation, with a number of agencies working together in the search,” Burt said.

“The weather conditions are more favourable today and we are completely focused on the search and rescue for the two people unaccounted for.”

Winds in the area on Sunday afternoon would have reached about 65km/h before easing off late in the evening, while waves would have been up to 2.5 metres, MetService meteorologist David Miller said.

The New Zealand Herald reported that the boat was an Enchanter Fishing Charters vessel named Enchanter – a 17m-long vessel designed to operate in offshore New Zealand waters. The company was established in 1995.

The charter boat left from its base in Mangonui in the Far North for a five-day fishing trip, the Herald said, and it is understood that the skipper, a crew hand, and a group from Auckland were onboard.

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