Fourth body found after chartered fishing vessel hit by ‘rogue wave’ in Far North
A fourth body was found in the water after a chartered fishing boat sank in the Far North on Sunday evening.
Enchanter, a charter vessel operating from Mangonui, sank just before midnight on Sunday off the North Cape in difficult conditions.
Five people were rescued, including the Enchanter’s captain Lance Goodhew and senior deckhand Kobe O’Neill.
They were in Kaitāia Hospital in stable condition on Monday morning and had since been discharged.
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Five other people were known to have fallen into the water.
Maritime New Zealand said on Monday morning the bodies of three people had been recovered.
Penetaui Kleskovic, operations manager for Te Aupōuri’s business development, said this afternoon that a fourth body had been found. Police confirmed this report shortly thereafter.
Maritime NZ said on Monday evening that a fifth body had yet to be found.
One possibility was that he remained in the boat, but an “active search” was to resume in the morning, she said.
“It must be a freak accident” – harbor master
Steve Smith is the manager of the Esquire Motel in Mangonui and the harbor warden of the small town in the Far North.
He said skipper Lance Goodhew, crew member Kobe O’Neill and eight charter guests left Mangonui around 8am on Saturday.
“It was just a normal charter.
“I was quite horrified to hear the news. These people, they may be tourists, but for a little while they are part of our community. So it’s devastating for us.
Smith said he has known Goodhew for many years.
“He’s not a cowboy.
“He knows what he’s doing, he’s professional.”
The Enchanter had been in similar conditions several times before without any issues, Smith said.
“It must be a freak accident.”
Smith said he was “horrified, devastated” when he heard the news.
“The whole town is. It is paralyzing to hear news like this.
The alarm was first triggered by an emergency locator beacon triggered around 8pm, Maritime NZ said. Kleskovic said the captain last made contact by marine radio around 10 p.m.
The first survivors were winched out of the water around 11:30 p.m. At 2:30 a.m., Maritime NZ officially declared the boat sunk, he said.
It appeared that the ship had been hit by a “rogue wave” near a reef. Its hull had “broken in two” and the wheelhouse had been “ripped off”, Kleskovic said.
It was a “miracle” that anyone survived, he said.
“The moment you’re in the ocean, especially up there at that time, it’s pretty unforgiving.”
He said Te Aupōuri iwi was “deeply saddened” by the sinking.
“Mana Moana and Mana Whenua are deeply saddened to hear about Enchanter.
“Our aroha and thoughts are with the affected families.
“A dark day for Tai Tokerau.”
Police have not released the names of those rescued or missing. However, Waikato’s family, father of three, Mark Sanders, confirmed he died in the sinking.
The Transportation Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) has opened an investigation into the incident, issuing a protective order for any debris from the boat to preserve evidence.
Investigators will be speaking to people in the Far North and are encouraging those with information to come forward.
The company whose boat sank helped rescue victims of the deadly Whakaari/White Island eruption in December 2019.
Kleskovic said he had been on the boat before and described it as an advanced and capable vessel.
The cruiser is 17 meters long and is designed for deep-sea fishing, the company’s website says.
It is one of three boats operated by Enchanter Fishing Charters, which specialize in fishing around the Isles of Three Kings.
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A New Zealand Defense Force statement said an Orion aircraft joined the search at 1 a.m. Monday from Whenuapai.
Bad weather in Auckland prevented him from landing when he returned at 8am. It was diverted to Ōhakea in the central North Island.
A second Orion was leaving Auckland as soon as possible on Monday, while the navy ship HMNZS Taupō arrived in the area early Monday afternoon.
Felicity Foy, district councilor for Far North District Council Te Hiku, said the seas in the region could “change very quickly and be very volatile” – particularly around Cape Reinga, where the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea they met.
MetService meteorologist Ashlee Parkes said there were torrential downpours and strong northeast winds in the area overnight, but the weather calmed down Monday morning, with a swell of 2 meters and winds of 10 km/h.
Winds in the area on Sunday afternoon were reported to have reached about 65 km/h before easing late in the evening, added MetService meteorologist David Miller.
He said the waves would have reached 2.5 meters and the rain was heavy.
However, the front causing the inclement weather had moved away from the area by Monday morning, he said.
Enchanter was started in 1995 by Goodhew and, according to its website, offers charter fishing for “the serious angler”.
Its fleet has three boats – Enchanter, Cova Rose and Pacific Invader – each of which can accommodate up to eight passengers.
They take charters to remote places like White Island, Ranfurly Banks, Westport and the Three Kings, a group of islands 55 kilometers northwest of Cape Reinga.
Goodhew, the captain of Enchanter, “has a passion for the sea and fishing” and “dedicates his life to living on the ocean,” the company’s website says.
He has lived aboard the ship more than 250 days a year for the past two decades. Calls to Goodhew’s phone Monday morning went unanswered.
Cova Rose captain Rhys Lark said he was involved in the search for the missing but was unable to comment.
In 2019, Enchanter Fishing Charters staff aboard Cova Rose helped rescue victims of the deadly Whakaari/White Island eruption.
The vessel, which had two doctors on board, was on a fishing charter a few miles from the island when the eruption occurred.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said a fifth body was located on Monday evening. Maritime NZ was still looking for this person. Updated at 6:38 p.m., March 21, 2022.