At least two dead and several missing after boat hits whale in New…

Two are dead and three are missing after New Zealand fishing boat carrying group of over-50 women capsizes ‘after colliding with whale’

  • Two died in accident near Kaikoura in South Island,  north east of Christchurch
  • Whale ‘surfaced from beneath the fishing vessel and flipped it over’ 
  • Kaikoura is popular whale-watching area, with deep waters close to shore

Two people are dead and three more missing after a boat in New Zealand capsized following a collision with a whale.

News organisation Stuff reported that two people had died in the accident on Saturday morning near the South Island town of Kaikoura, some 110 miles north-east of Christchurch. 

Kaikoura mayor Craig Mackle said 11 people had been aboard the 8.5-metre boat at the time of the accident and six had been safely brought back to shore.

The surviving six have now all been discharged from hospital, though one person sustained minor injuries. 

A helicopter and a rescue boat search for survivors off the coast of Kaikoura, New Zealand (AP)

Survivors can be seen clinging to the upturned hull of a boat that capsized off the coast of Kaikoura, New Zealand

He 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.

He added the water was ‘bloody cold’ and the outcome for anybody who had fallen overboard was not likely to be good. He said locals were busy helping out with the rescue efforts but the mood in the town was ‘sombre’ as they awaited more news of those who were missing.

Mr Mackle said the water was very calm and the assumption was that the whale had surfaced from beneath the boat and flipped it. He said there were some sperm whales in the area and also some humpback whales traveling through, although he did not know what type of whale might have collided with the boat.

The mayor added that he had thought in the past about the possibility of a boat and whale colliding, given the number of whales that frequent the area.

‘It always plays on your mind that it could happen,’ he said, adding that he had not heard about any previous accidents.

New Zealand’s history of maritime disasters

March 2022: Five men died when fishing charter boat Enchanter capsized near North Cape. 

November 2021: Two men died when their boat sank in Bluff Harbour.

October 2021: Three men died when their boat capsized in Auckland’s Manukau Harbour. 

June 2021: One man died when his boat capsized in large waves attempting to cross the Kaituna Cut bar in the Bay of Plenty. 

April 2021: A 2-year-old girl died when the boat she was on flipped as it tried to cross the bar at the Taieri Mouth south of Dunedin. 

Police said in a statement they were responding to an incident in which a boat had reportedly capsized and they had closed off a boat ramp from public use. They did not immediately provide further details.

‘This is an unprecedented event that has occurred,’ Kaikōura Police Sergeant Matt Boyce said, which had led to a ‘significant response of emergency services and members of the public, and Kaikōura maritime community. 

‘This has been a tragic event and the police are providing support to those involved at this very difficult time.’   

The capsize triggered a large search off the coast, at Goose Bay, for several hours throughout the afternoon on Saturday.

Witnesses watched as a rescue helicopter, Coastguard volunteers, and divers were called in throughout the day to help with the rescue and recovery efforts.

By 4pm the boat, previously seen upside down in the water, was being towed to shore. The bodies had been found in the boat’s cabin.

People gathered on the shore south of Goose Bay to watch the recovery of the boat and await further news.

Vanessa Chapman told Stuff she and a group of friends had watched the rescue efforts unfold from Goose Bay, near Kaikoura. She said that when she arrived at a lookout spot, she could see a person sitting atop an overturned boat waving their arms.

Kaikoura and Kaikoura Range, New Zealand (Alamy/PA). The area is a popular whale-watching destination

She said two rescue helicopters and a third local helicopter were circling before two divers jumped out. She told Stuff the person atop the boat was rescued and a second person appeared to have been pulled from the water.  

Kaikōura Coastguard acting president Neroli Gold said: ‘When lives are lost, it’s a real deep sadness for everybody involved, so our thoughts go out to the family and friends of the deceased.’

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.

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