Wife's anguish: He was her world

By Solbin Kang, Tess Nichol

Nick Saull and Jan Saull from Red Beach on their wedding day Photo / Supplied
Nick Saull and Jan Saull from Red Beach on their wedding day Photo / Supplied

The wife of a man killed on board a yacht is devastated by the loss and wants to understand exactly what happened in the last moments of his life.

Aucklander Nick Saull was today named by friends as the man who died on board the 20-metre Platino yesterday morning.

Another man, who fell overboard, remains missing.

Red Beach Surf Life Saving Club member Mark Readman told the Herald his friend and fellow club member's family were devastated at the news and were struggling to cope.

"I was over there last night and it's a very, very difficult time."

Mr Readman said Mr Saull's wife, Jan Saull, was in a state of shock and wanted to understand exactly what had happened.

"She's just completely shocked ... he was just her world. The family is, as you can imagine, wondering what's happened. It's such a tragedy.

"You've just got to take it step by step, day by day - well, it's hour by hour at the moment, to be honest."

Tributes for Mr Saull have been pouring online since news of his death on board the Platino yesterday morning became known.

Mr Saull, the head of Brin Wilson Boat Builders, a boat building and repair company - based in the Gulf Harbour Marina, in Whangaparaoa - had a passion for the sea and all things water-related; including working as a life guard and teaching young life guards.

Friends and relatives have paid tribute to a devoted husband and father who was well known in the boat-building business.

Broadcaster Trudi Nelson wrote: "Life can change in an instant. Am heartbroken. Amazing dad, husband, rugby coach, surf club stalwart, sailor, all-round top Kiwi bloke."

Another friend called the fallen yachtie "a true gentleman" who tragically lost his life at sea."Our aroha goes out to the whanau during these trying times."

Mr Saull played in the lock position for the Silverdale United Rugby Club for a few years, up until about two years ago.

Former teammate Danny Hemmingway paid tribute to a player who was a born leader on and off the field.

"I played alongside him for about four years and he was just one of those guys that everybody respected, everybody looked up to and was just a natural leader on the field. He was just an all-round top bloke."

Mr Hemmingway said his old mate played captain in the majority of his games and was well-regarded among team members.

"He was just a family man and just one of those guys where even after he stopped playing, you'd see him on the street and he'd go: 'How are the boys doing?'

"Even after he stopped playing, he was involved. He was just an amazing guy."

Mr Hemmingway said club members would observe a minute's silence at games this weekend, with all team members wearing black armbands to pay tribute to Mr Saull.

When contacted this morning, a worker at the company said they were not yet prepared to comment. He said: "We're just trying to deal with it."

Maritime NZ said this morning a container ship was re-routing to help the remaining crew on the Platino, which is located about 550km north of the country.

A Royal NZ Air Force Orion has resumed the search for one of the crew members, who fell overboard yesterday. He has yet to be named by authorities.

The Rescue Co-ordination Centre of NZ said the Orion's search area was about 223 nautical miles - calculated from drift predictions.

RCCNZ watch leader David Wilson said: "The next few hours are vital in this rescue effort - both in attempting to recover the man lost overboard and to ensure the safety of those left on board."

Mr Wilson said the container ship, Southern Lily, would help clear the rigging.

Rescue Coordination Centre spokesman Steve Rendle said officials were in communication with the three people still on board - who had had a rough night on the sea.

Mr Rendle said the Rescue Coordination Centre had provided a search area based on drift modelling.

The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand was advised at 11.20am yesterday that a sailor in his 60s had fallen overboard from the yacht, Platino, 550 kilometres north of the country.

The yacht had suffered serious rigging damage in winds of up to 75 kilometres an hour, Maritime New Zealand said.

The Platino is registered to Auckland couple Tory and Harry McKeogh.

Harry McKeogh's father, Peter McKeogh, said he was worried for his son and daughter-in-law, and friend Ross McKee, who are still on board.

Peter McKeogh told Radio NZ: "Everybody is pretty worried about them. We can't do a lot until they get a bit of help to get the rigging cut adrift."

He said the mast was down and dragging in the water, pounding the hull badly. "If that doesn't cause any damage, they should be all right. But should it punch a hole in the boat, they'll probably have to abandon ship."

Rescue Coordination Centre NZ search and rescue mission co-ordinator Keith Allen yesterday said an RNZAF P3 Orion that was already operating in the area was on the scene within 90 minutes of the incident.

"Sea conditions are extremely dangerous and the remaining crew on board the Platino have advised that it is too hazardous to be on deck. With limited ability to manoeuvre safely, the yacht is motoring to New Zealand, but this could take at least two days.

A fishing boat was expected to be at the scene by about 7pm last night but it was not possible to search in darkness, Maritime New Zealand said.

A Rescue Coordination Centre NZ spokesman told the Herald the search had stopped last night when darkness had fallen and would resume again at first light.

It was believed the boat was on its way back to New Zealand from Fiji when it got into trouble.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion plane was also used in the search.

Captain Tim Walshe said the Orion was diverted to locate the stricken yacht after it put out a distress call yesterday morning.

The aircraft had been conducting patrols in support of the Ministry for Primary Industries off the northern coast of New Zealand.

Aircrew from the RNZAF's five Squadron said four of PLATINO's five-member crew were on board when they found the boat at about 12:30pm yesterday.

"Strong winds and heavy swells had hit the yacht and smashed its boom. Fortunately, our Orion was already in the area so that greatly reduced the response time. The crew also found the yacht as soon as they reached the search area," Mr Walshe said.

Air crew had contacted three vessels in the vicinity with a request to assist in the search for the missing man and support Platino's four crew members.

A second Orion was conducting further searches for the missing man.

The Platino had been entered to compete in the ANZ Sail Fiji yacht race, however, the boat was not ready by the time the race started.

Race director Sally Garrett told the Herald the Platino's crew pulled out a week before the race began, but there was nothing to suggest the boat wasn't seaworthy.

"Projects often takes longer than you think.

"They had a refit at Gulf Harbour and weren't ready to leave when we wanted to leave."

Because they had pulled out so early the crew details for the Platino were never completed, Ms Garrett said, so she did not know who might have been on board when the boat got into trouble.

- NZ Herald

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