Five dead after boat capsizes, possibly by whale

survivor on upturned boat after five dead after whale suspected of capsizing boat

Five people have died in New Zealand after a boat capsized off Goose Bay in Kaikōura over the weekend. They were on a charter boat carrying bird enthusiasts. The local mayor says he suspects a whale caused the boat to capsize.

Eleven people were aboard the 8.5-metre boat when it capsized. Six people were rescued and five bodies were recovered from inside the vessel by police divers.

Sergeant Matt Boyce says it was an “unprecedented event” and a tragedy and that police were supporting those involved, according to the New Zealand Herald.

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

“The information we have at the moment is it appears to be a collision. With what, we don’t know at this stage. This is an unprecedented event that has occurred, involving significant response from emergency services and members of the public,” Kaikoura Police Sergeant Matt Boyce told a press conference.

According to the New Zealand Herald, earlier in the day Mackle said he believed the boat had hit a whale.

Whales were resident and had been seen in the area, Mackle said. Sea conditions at the time were “perfect, flat”.

Asked if the boat was overloaded, Mackle said he couldn’t answer that.

Five dead after whale suspected of capsizing boat

Mackle told the Associated Press that the water was dead calm at the time of the accident and the assumption was that a whale had surfaced from beneath the boat. Striking debris such as a log would have put a hole in the boat, Mackle said .

He said there were some sperm whales in the area and also some humpback whales travelling through and that locals had helped with the rescue efforts throughout the day but the mood in the town had been “sombre” because the water is so cold and they feared for the outcome of anybody who had fallen overboard.

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.

Mackle had said a group of women aged over 50 were on board at the time. 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 of the five who had died after a whale was suspected of capsizing the boat.

Survivor perches on boat after five died after whale suspected of capsizing boat

Tracy Phillips, Maritime NZ Principal Investigator, said the organisation had sent two investigators from Christchurch to Kaikoura.

“Any investigation activity will commence only after rescue/recovery operations have concluded. We’ll be conducting a thorough investigation under the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Maritime Transport Act and we’ll do everything we can to support NZ Police in their investigation.”

The rescue operation lasted nearly seven hours reports WION, while a police dive squad recovered five bodies from inside the vessel. Media reports said the skipper of the boat had survived.

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, says The Guardian.

In July 2022, MIN reported that there has been concern in the US about the increased number of encounters between swimmers, surfers and boaters with sharks, seals and whales, and in July 2021 a sailor from New Milton, Hampshire said he felt he was “caught up in a horror film” when a pod of 30 orca whales repeatedly attacked the yacht he was crewing on. These type of stories are, however, few and far between compared to the stories of beautiful whale encounters like the moment a drone captured the moment when a paddle boarder had a close encounter with two curious whales in Argentina or other articles contained in MIN’s whale archives.

Images courtesy of New Zealand Herald via social media.

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