Anna Leask

Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Ocean keeps the secret of missing yacht

On May 29 last year the Nina set sail from New Zealand bound for Australia with seven people on board. On June 4, a text message was sent from the vessel - and since that day, there has been no sign of it or its crew. A year on Anna Leask revisits the mystery of the Nina and the families left behind.

The Nina was last heard from on June 4 last year after leaving the Bay of Islands for Australia.
The Nina was last heard from on June 4 last year after leaving the Bay of Islands for Australia.

Danielle Wright's last words to her parents were "bye, see you in three months".

But she would never see them again, and a year later mystery surrounds her final days.

Miss Wright, 19, was one of seven people on board the 85-year-old yacht Nina which set off from the Bay of Islands on May 29 last year headed for Newcastle, Australia.

On June 4 a crew member sent a text to Kiwi meteorologist Bob McDavitt asking for an update on nasty weather.

Since then, there has been no sign of the Nina or its crew.

New Zealand and Australian authorities searched extensively and the families of the crew funded additional expeditions in a bid to find their loved ones.

A year later, they are no closer to knowing what happened.

The Nina was owned by professional captain David Dyche III, 58, and his wife, Rosemary, 60.

They were on board with son David Dyche jnr, 17, and family friend Miss Wright, fellow Americans Evi Nemeth, 73, Kyle Jackson, 27, and Briton Matthew Wootton, 35.

There are mixed feelings among the families of the missing. Some are adamant the crew are alive, despite the time that has passed. Others have given up hope.

In March a memorial service was held in Florida for the Dyche family.

Mr Dyche's mother Caryl told local media she had accepted her son, grandson and daughter-in-law would never be found.

She said the memorial service gave the family closure.

"It's been a long ordeal. We had to call it an end somehow," she told the West Palm Beach News.

She described the months after the disappearance of her son's yacht as "a rollercoaster of emotions".

And, she admitted that although she would like to believe her family were still alive, she knew they were not.

Mr Dyche's sister Cherie Martinez said she still held hope the Nina's crew would be found alive. But, she was now "dealing with the reality of the situation".

"If miracles always happened, they wouldn't be miracles," she said.

"It's just there's nothing we can do and he would, wherever he is, he would be saying, 'live life'."

On the other hand, Miss Wright's family are steadfast in their belief that she will come home to them alive and well.

On May 13 last year the Louisiana couple took their only child to the airport - never dreaming it would be the last time they would see her.

"At the airport, we hugged her and waved to her last words to us, 'bye, see you in three months'," Mrs Wright wrote in a reflective post on Facebook this month.

"Ricky and I teased each other with 'let the honeymoon begin' and 'free at last' jokes. We were so happy for Danielle to get such an awesome opportunity to spend the entire summer on Nina."

The couple were also invited on the trip but declined.

Miss Wright would have turned 20 on May 18. Her parents have not given up hope that she and the rest of the Nina crew are alive and somehow surviving at sea or on an obscure island just waiting to be found.

In February Mrs Wright told the Daily Mail that she envisioned her daughter "happily adrift on the wooden sailboat Nina, collecting rainwater, rationing food, singing, telling travel stories and planning their next adventures with her six crewmates".

The Wrights spent months living in Australia after the Nina vanished. They made their own searches based on objects identified on satellite images by hundreds of people online - known as crowdsourcing.

They also spent many hours scouring the ocean with local pilots and Mr Wright even worked towards his own pilot's licence so he could take a greater role in looking for his daughter. Eventually they returned to the US, where they own their own business.

"It's hard to even think about coming home without Danielle, but we've done everything we know to do to search for Nina and seven very special people," Mrs Wright wrote before she left.

"We know they can survive whatever the Tasman throws at them with God's hand of protection covering them."

On July 6 last year the search for the Nina was suspended by the Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand after no sightings were reported and all possible areas where the vessel could have been were investigated.

It has said that no further searches would be made without new information that would warrant such an exercise.

This year the centre confirmed an independent review of the Nina search was being made. The review is expected to be published once complete.

No date has been given or time frame set for the completion of the review.

- NZ Herald

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