Probe into yacht tragedy begins

By Kristin Edge -
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Platino about to be lifted from the water in Whangarei Harbour after being recovered following a tragedy 550km north of New Zealand. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Platino about to be lifted from the water in Whangarei Harbour after being recovered following a tragedy 550km north of New Zealand. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Inquiries into a high-seas tragedy are underway after the multi-million dollar yacht at the centre of the deadly drama has been salvaged.

One man was killed outright and another lost overboard in circumstances which will be a key focus of the inquiry.

Tug Sea Pelican tows yacht Platino up the Whangarei Harbour before being lifted on to the hard for inspection. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Tug Sea Pelican tows yacht Platino up the Whangarei Harbour before being lifted on to the hard for inspection. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Tug boat Sea Pelican arrived in Whangarei about 9.10am yesterday, towing the yacht Platino which was battered by a storm and involved in tragedy 550km north of New Zealand.

Aucklander Nick Saull was struck by the 20m yacht's rigging and killed, while fellow Aucklander Stephen Forno was washed overboard and went missing at sea after the vessel encountered rough conditions on Monday last week.

Maritime New Zealand spokesman Steve Rendle said inquiries would centre around piecing together what had happened onboard.

The investigation would include interviews with the remaining crew members. It would also involve an inspection of Platino.

Mr Rendle said investigators would be trying to clarify what happened to the two men, "and any safety lessons to come out of it."

Three people aboard Platino were rescued by a container ship, which spent 14 hours battling through high seas to reach the stricken yacht.

Auckland City police operations manager Inspector Vaughan Graham said the tug and yacht were met at Northport, Marsden Point, yesterday by a small group of family members from some of those on board and police.

"Police are now investigating the circumstances of Nick Saull's death on behalf of the coroner," Mr Graham said.

The yacht has been towed to a Whangarei boat yard for examination by Maritime New Zealand representatives.

Sea Pelican reached Platino about 8.35am last Friday and had since been towing the vessel.

Mr Saull, a boatbuilder, was remembered by friends as a devoted father and husband who loved the ocean.

The yacht had been due to take part in the Auckland to Denarau, Fiji, yacht race but had pulled out before the June 1 start.

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