Kaipara Harbour search resumes for last victim following boat capsizing

The search for the last victim of the Kaipara charter boat tragedy is under way this morning.

Police said the operation resumed at first light with the police Eagle Helicopter providing aerial surveillance. At the same time searchers would scour the shoreline and water in an effort to find the missing fisherman.

Police stood down searches last night because of poor weather conditions.

Those same conditions continue this morning with giant swells of more than 4m and strong winds battering the western coastline.

Inspector Mark Fergus said police did not hold high hopes that the missing man was alive and the search crews were now looking to recover another body.

"Sadly we believe it's likely that this person has also died ."

Six of the man's friends died, along with skipper Bill McNatty, in what police have called one of the "largest maritime disasters in recent times".

All of the men who were on board the charter, except McNatty, were of Pacific Island descent - four were Tongan, one was Samoan and one was a Cook Islander.

Two Tongan men and one man of Cook Island descent survived.

The operation resumed at first light with the police Eagle Helicopter providing aerial surveillance. At the same time searchers would scour the shoreline and water in an effort to find the missing fisherman.

Auckland Westpac rescue chopper winched two of the survivors from the water. The third swam to shore with the aid of two life jackets on each arm.

Police had launched a number of investigations. They included speaking to the survivors, looking at records about the vessel, what the plans were, what the weather conditions were like on the day, and whether there was any lesson to be learned.

"We will be assessing whether there is any culpability," Fergus said.

Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) would also investigate what happened.

Questions were already emerging into whether the charter should have gone out on to the Tasman Sea that day.

Waves up to 4m high battered the boat as it tried to re-enter the harbour.

The former skipper of the Francie, Rod Bridge, said the vessel should not have been attempting to cross the bar on Saturday.

"It shouldn't have been out there. It was too rough ... it's a terrible thing."

Bridge runs another charter business on the harbour but said called off an outing planned for Saturday because of the conditions.

"I stayed home ... the wind was coming up and the swell was coming up. You wouldn't go out over the bar."

Volunteer lifeguards battled "monster waves" as they desperately searched for survivors.

Muriwai volunteer patrol captain Brett Hardie said lifeguards spent about four-and-a-half hours combing the surf for debris.

"We kept on searching until the light made it too dangerous."

The surf was huge, Hardie said.

"I was amazed that three guys actually survived it. Absolutely amazed."

"We wear good wetsuits, have fins strapped to us, a proper lifejacket, waterproof radio and all of that. And I thought to myself if we flip the boat, it's not going to be an easy job to get ashore. We had two choppers above us, and they had our backs."

- NZ Herald

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