Missing South African yachtie found alive off East Cape

Darius DeWet, 20, from South Africa. Photo  / Facebook
Darius DeWet, 20, from South Africa. Photo / Facebook

A VHF radio was being ferried last night to an inexperienced yachtie found alive yesterday off the East Cape after an extensive search.

And while authorities are still calculating the cost, the young skipper will not be billed for the search operation as this could put off others from seeking urgent help from authorities.

Darius DeWet, 20, from South Africa, had gone missing with his 6.7m (22-foot) yacht Luna north of Gisborne after setting off from Hawke's Bay late last week.

The last sighting of him was on Monday when a plane found Luna anchored in Anaura Bay, near Tolaga Bay. DeWet waved to the aircraft and appeared unharmed but had made no other contact with the aircraft or anyone else since.

A search was launched and he was found yesterday by a Royal New Zealand Air Force helicopter 16km south of Cape Runaway at 2.40pm.

Maritime New Zealand spokesman Vince Cholewa said DeWet appeared to be unharmed and his yacht undamaged. He was continuing to sail.

"We still can't talk to him because he's got no comms which has been the whole problem," Cholewa said last night.

"He's had no working comms since Friday last week."

The Rescue Co-ordination Centre NZ was last night sending a maritime VHF radio to DeWet's yacht by Coastguard.

Search and rescue mission co-odinator Mike Roberts urged anyone planning to head to sea to make sure they relayed their plans to family and friend and that they were carrying the right equipment.

"The skipper left a vague trip plan and seems to have had no working communications equipment since Friday last week. Even when two search aircraft located him he was unable to communicate his intentions or report on his condition.

"We want boaties to always leave a detailed trip plan with family, a friend or a boating organisation, and to take at least two forms of communications that will work when wet. A registered distress beacon is also highly recommended for all boats,'' Roberts said.
The novice sailor would likely get to Whakatane by this morning however authorities planned to 'talk' to DeWet about abandoning his journey.

Meanwhile friends back in the Hawkes Bay were rapt DeWet was safe.

A worker at The Loading Ramp bar in Havelock North where DeWet had friends said they were "absolutely" relieved the shy but friendly young man had been found.

"He's a really cool guy who did something dumb."

DeWet had only just purchased the boat six weeks ago and done it up. He wanted to go on an adventure, his former employer Kevin Blair said.

Blair, a dairy farmer in Tutira, said DeWet worked for him for a year to learn about New Zealand farming before finishing up in late August to undertake the sailing trip.

"He wanted to have an adventure. So he'd bought a yacht on Trade Me, locally, and we suggested he needed to join the sailing club, and Coastguard and get some experience."
Blair said DeWet had planned to sail to the Hauraki Gulf.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 30 Sep 2016 09:49:00 Processing Time: 552ms