Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Whakatane boat fire: Skipper's quick actions praised

Whakatane boatie Steve Haddock. PHOTO: GEORGE NOVAK/ ROTORUA DAILY POST
Whakatane boatie Steve Haddock. PHOTO: GEORGE NOVAK/ ROTORUA DAILY POST

The quick actions of the skipper on the tour vessel that caught fire off Whakatane this week ultimately helped to ensure those on board could be rescued quickly.

Local boatie and fisherman Steve Haddock, one of several people who went out to help, said the captain's anchoring of the PeeJay V on Monday was hugely significant in rescue efforts.

Mr Haddock told the Rotorua Daily Post: "It stopped the vessel from drifting, stopped it listing. It also turned it into the wind and made for a good evacuation.

The Pee Jay 5 on fire off Whakatane. Photo / Whakatane Beacon
The Pee Jay 5 on fire off Whakatane. Photo / Whakatane Beacon

"I would say the outcome could have been quite different otherwise."

A spokesman for White Island Tours, which owns the boat, said members of the company were out on the shoreline this morning to help clean up pieces of debris that had washed up from the wreckage.

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Business was also back to normal today, with the company's other tour boat -- PeeJay IV -- out on the water today.

Spokesman Patrick O'Sullivan said: "We felt it was prudent to temporarily suspend operations while the investigations commenced yesterday," he said.

"But after confirming that the authorities have no initial concerns with tours being carried out on our other vessels, we are back out to White Island today."

Mr O'Sullivan said the last few days had been tough for the company and those involved in the incident.

They continued to work alongside Maritime New Zealand and the Transport Accident Investigation Commission, whose investigations into the circumstances and cause of the blaze are still ongoing.

- NZ Herald

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