Five people lost their lives on Saturday in New Zealand after a small charter boat they were on capsized, the authorities reported, in what could be a collision with a whale.
Another six individuals who were on the boat were rescued.
Police mentioned that the 8.5-meter boat overturned when it was close to the Island town of Kaikōura in the South. Police said they were continuing to inspect the actual cause of the accident.
A Kaikōura Police Sergeant named Matt Boyce mentioned it was a devastating event.
The thoughts are with all those involved, including the deceased and their beloved family members, the local communities, and the emergency services staff, Boyce mentioned.
He mentioned that the police divers were able to recover the bodies of the deceased individuals. He added that all six survivors were examined, and they are stable. One was transferred to a hospital in Christchurch as a precautionary measure.
Kaikōura Mayor Craig Mackle informed The Associated Press that the water at the accident site was dead calm when the accident happened, and it was assumed that a whale had surfaced from underneath the sailing boat.
He said there were a few sperm whales in that area and some humpback whales that travel through.
He said that the locals had helped with the ongoing rescue efforts all through the day, but the mood in the town was “sombre” as the water was so cold, and they feared for the outcome of any victim who had fallen overboard.
Mackle said he had previously thought about the possibility of a boat colliding with a whale, given the significant number of whales found in that region.
He said it plays on one’s mind that it could happen, adding that he had not heard of such accidents earlier.
Mackle informed me the boat was a charter vessel typically used for fishing. News agency Stuff‘s report mention that the passengers belonged to a group of bird enthusiasts.
Kaikōura is a trendy destination for whale watching. The seafloor is known to drop away precipitously from the coast, making for deep waters close to the shore. Several businesses offer helicopter or boat trips so that the tourists can spot the whales, dolphins, and other kinds of sea creatures up close.
Police said they were still trying to inform the relatives of those who lost their lives in the accident and could not yet publicly name all the victims.
Vanessa Chapman informed Stuff that she and a group of friends had watched the rescue efforts progress from Goose Bay, located close to Kaikōura.
She further added that as she reached the lookout spot, she saw an individual atop an overturned boat waving arms.
She reported that two rescue helicopters and a third local one circled before two expert divers jumped out. She informed Stuff that the individual atop the boat was successfully rescued, and a second individual appeared to have been pulled from the water.
The compliance agency dubbed Maritime New Zealand said it had sent two investigators to the scene and was expected to conduct a thorough investigation once the recovery operations were over.
Tracy Phillips, the Principal Investigator, reported that the agency offers heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of those who have passed away.
References: VOA News, ABC News