Friend's fears for missing sailor

By Kristin Edge

In an act of kindness Whangarei woman Alice Morgan let a "lovely" elderly American woman stay at her family home after her car had broken down.

Last week, Mrs Morgan was shocked to see the lady she let sleep on her couch - 73-year-old Evi Nemeth - was among seven yachties missing at sea, when she saw the woman's face on a TV news report.

"I was watching the news and suddenly saw Evi's face flash up on the screen. I'm so shocked to think she is missing," Mrs Morgan said.

Computer engineer Evi Nemeth and six others are missing on the classic racing yacht Nina, which has not been heard from since June 4.

The 21m Nina left Opua in the Bay of Islands on May 29 and was heading to Newcastle, New South Wales, but hit rough seas, leading to fears it has capsized, with its seven crew lost at sea.

The search for the crew is being led by the Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand but despite an extensive sweep of the area nothing has been found.

Yesterday, Ms Morgan recalled how their paths crossed just a month before Ms Nemeth set sail.

Ms Morgan said she had spotted a woman next to a car on the other side of Otaika Rd. Concerned for the woman Ms Morgan asked her husband Brent to go and ask the lady if she was okay.

The car had broken down and Ms Nemeth was going to stay in the car overnight until she could contact friends.

The Morgans offered her the couch and she accepted.

"She said she had been to Auckland and couldn't get hold of anyone she knew in Opua," Mrs Morgan said.

"She was just lovely and played with the kids."

Mrs Morgan's mum Debbie Keatley, formerly of Whangarei, was visiting from Brisbane and struck up a conversation with the American about her sailing adventures.

"She was so nice and down to earth. She had her own boat Wonderland and used to get a crew together and sail around the world. Her boat is still moored in Opua," Ms Keatley said, from Australia yesterday.

They exchanged email addresses. Ms Nemeth said she was going to head to Brisbane before the end of the year and promised to take Ms Keatley sailing.

"I've been following the news and it's so sad. Maybe there is still some hope they are alive."

It was Ms Nemeth who contacted New Zealand meteorologist Bob McDavitt on June 3 asking for advice on how to get away from the weather.

She texted the next day asking for an update on conditions.

Rescue centre spokeswoman Sarah Brazil said an air force P3 Orion left Whenuapai Air Base about 7.15am yesterday but returned without seeing anything relating to the missing yacht.

The search area is about 125km east-northeast of North Cape.


- Northern Advocate

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