Survivors of a maritime disaster that claimed six lives told of a huge catch that destabilised their fishing boat, an inquest heard today.

A police inquiry found no suspicious circumstances or criminal liability in the capsizing of the Korean trawler Oyang 70 off the Otago coast almost two years ago, the hearing in Wellington heard this morning.

But statements given to investigators in Christchurch after the 38-year-old vessel went down about 400 nautical miles east off the coast early on August 20, 2010 told of a heavy catch when a large net was hauled on deck, causing the ship to take on water and list.

Crew recalled seeing the skipper sitting, crying, hugging a pole and drinking from a bottle of clear liquid, thought to be water, not long before the ship "turned turtle''.


He had earlier refused a lifejacket as sailors rushed to release life rafts and had given no orders to abandon ship. No warning alarm or siren was sounded.

Wellington Coroner Richard McElrea has begun an inquiry into the deaths of Indonesian crew members Samsuri, 39, Taefur, 35, (SUBS: BOTH HAD ONLY ONE NAME) and Heru Yuniarto, 25.

Pathologist reports said they had drowned.

The bodies of the Korean captain, Shin Hyeon Gi, 42, and two other Indonesians have not been recovered and their deaths are not subject to this week's inquest.

At the outset, Mr McElrea formally expressed his condolences to the families of the dead.

The inquest, expected to last all week, was scheduled to follow the findings of a ministerial inquiry into the fate of the trawler.

A Transport Accident Investigation Commission probe was also held into the vessel's sinking.

The coroner said he would not deal with the wider issues of working conditions on board, except where they related to circumstances relevant to the inquest.