One dead after fishing boat rolls on West Coast

The Lady Anna had drifted about 25 metres up the Grey River. Photo / Greymouth Star
The Lady Anna had drifted about 25 metres up the Grey River. Photo / Greymouth Star

The devastated father of the skipper, killed today when his boat capsized near Greymouth, has spoken about the pain of losing is only son in the tragedy.

Nicholas Eklund, 36, and two crew members were returning to port on fishing boat, Lady Anna, when it rolled in heavy seas on the Greymouth bar this morning.

Two of the men managed to cling to a flotation device and made it to shore, but Mr Eklund was washed off and drowned, despite a frantic rescue attempt.

Speaking from his Christchurch home, his father Mike Eklund said he learnt of his son's death when a family member called to tell him.

The loss of his son followed the death of his only other child, a daughter, who died in a car accident a few years ago, Mr Eklund said.

"I'm upset ... My only son, my only surviving relative I have is Nick.''

Mr Eklund said he had "a lot of good memories of what Nick was and how I'd like him to be remembered'' but was too upset to comment further.

The skipper is understood to have been an experienced fisherman, who had transferred to the Lady Anna in the past three months.

Immediately following the boating accident, a person believed to be a friend of Nicholas Eklund reportedly attacked the Talley's office with an axe.

The independently-owned Lady Anna, usually based out of Nelson, had been fishing for the company.

A 42-year-old Greymouth man was arrested and charged with wilful damage. He appeared at Greymouth District Court today.

A Talley's spokesman denied the incident had occurred. "Our office was not attacked with an axe'', said the man, who refused to comment further on the incident or the boating tragedy.

Police, coastguard, the rescue helicopter, another fishing vessel and members of the public were all involved in the rescue after the tragedy unfolded at 7.30am.

"Conditions at the time were very rough, with large waves and a strong wind,'' said a police spokesman.

Mr Eklund was guiding the 15-metre Lady Anna over the bar when a large wave crashed into it, flipping it and throwing the crew into the water directly off the Blaketown tiphead.

Rescue Coordination Centre spokesman Kevin Banaghan said two distress beacon notifications belonging to the boat were received when the vessel rolled.

The three men scrambled back onto the hull, before another wave washed them off. Onlookers threw lifebuoys to the two crew - a 27-year-old Greymouth man and a 42-year-old Christchurch man - from the opposite tiphead at Cobden, helping them ashore, but Mr Eklund was tossed about in the sea.

Worried bystanders also threw a lifejacket and buoy toward him, but they were swept away from him.

"It just got worse and worse,'' said eyewitness Bob McAullife.

"But the next time I saw the boat they weren't there. The waves were just so crazy. They just got washed off.''

Mr Eklund was eventually pulled unconscious from the water by local surfer Steve Newby.

Police and St John crews spent 15 minutes performing CPR but couldn't revive him and he was pronounced dead.

The survivors were taken to Grey Base Hospital.

The 27-year-old was in a stable condition with grazes, and the 42-year-old was also stable but had hypothermia.

Maritime New Zealand is investigating.

- APNZ

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