Missing yacht: Family may be unaware of disappearance

Missing yacht Munetra. Photo supplied
Missing yacht Munetra. Photo supplied

The family of one of the three people missing on a yacht for nearly a fortnight may still be in the dark over their disappearance.

On board the Munetra are believed to be two 19-year-old German tourists to New Zealand and a 33-year-old German skipper who lives in Southland.

Grave fears are held for all three.

Police had hoped to be able to release the names of the people on board today, but they were still working to make contact with the next-of-kin of one of those on board.

The trio were last heard from on April 16 when they made radio contact in rough weather off Centre Island, about 35km north-west of Bluff.

The 7.5-metre yacht left Bluff earlier that day, headed for Preservation Inlet at the southwest of the South Island.

The last person to speak to the skipper, Bluff Marine Radio operator Meri Leask, said the craft was in "unsuitable waters``at the time.

"It didn't matter what you said. [The skipper] just had his own way of doing things and refused to listen to any other advice,'' she said.

Since Thursday a large search and rescue team, including an Air Force Orion, has been scouring the coast of the southern South Island and around Stewart and the Muttonbird Islands, for any sign of the vessel.

The search included coastline searches by a plane and two helicopters, with an Airforce Orion searching approximately 80,000 square kilometres. The search area was effectively the width of the South Island to a point 150km south of Stewart Island.

"The search is now in a limited continuous search phase which means that the team will continue to regularly receive and evaluate the latest information supplied from the Rescue Coordination Centre about tidal patterns, current movements and debris already located, to identify potential actions or directions for future searches,'' said Inspector Lane Todd, Southland area commander.

Searchers have also asked local fishermen and boaties operating in the vicinity of the search area to report any new and relevant information to them.

"Obviously police continue to have very real concerns for the safety of the occupants on the yacht and are working to piece together information about the three occupants on board and the circumstances leading up to the yacht setting sail,'' Mr Todd said.

"The team has also been working behind the scenes to liaise with the German Embassy to ensure they are well briefed on the search and rescue operation.''

- APNZ

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