Five people have died in a tragic boating accident when a whale capsized their boat while on a bird watching tour on Saturday morning.
Eleven people were on board the boat when it capsized in Goose Bay, near New Zealand’s South Island.
Police believe the 8.5-meter Kaikoura charter boat overturned after a whale swam under the boat.
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A witness said that around 11 a.m. she saw an overturned boat in the water with a single person sitting on it and waving his arms, according to New Zealand media outlet Stuff.
The boat is believed to be owned by a local fishing charter company and a group of women were on board. Six were rescued.
The capsized boat sparked a major search operation that lasted several hours throughout the afternoon as divers and helicopters tried to locate those on board.
It is understood that no Australians were involved in the incident.
At 4 p.m. local time, the boat, previously lying face down in the water, was towed ashore.
Sergeant Matt Boyce said a “large-scale search and rescue operation at sea” was triggered after the incident.
“Sadly, five people lost their lives,” he said.
“Six others have been taken to Kaikōura Health Center for evaluation, one has been transferred to Christchurch Hospital as a precaution – all six are said to be in stable condition.
“The Police National Dive Squad has now recovered the deceased.”
Boyce said police will “continue to support everyone involved at this incredibly difficult time.”
“This is an unprecedented event that has required a significant response from emergency services and members of the Kaikōura maritime community,” he said.
“Our thoughts are with everyone involved, including the victims and their families, their local communities and emergency services personnel.
Kaikoura Mayor Craig Mackle told The Associated Press that six people were safely brought back to shore, but the water was “cold as hell” and the outcome for anyone who fell overboard was probably not good.
Mackle said the water was calm and the assumption was that a whale appeared under the boat and turned it over.
He said there are sperm whales in the area and some humpback whales that pass through.
“You always think that it could happen,” Mackle said of the possibility of a boat and whale colliding due to the abundance of whales in the area.
Mackle said the incident was a “tragic event” affecting the entire community.
– With AAP
https://7news.com.au/news/new-zealand/five-die-after-whale-capsizes-boat-on-bird-watching-tour-in-unprecedented-event-in-new-zealand-c-8197202 New Zealand charter boat disaster: Five dead as ‘whale boat capsizes’ on birding tour in ‘unprecedented event’