A witness to the Kaipara tragedy has tearfully come forward.

Eleven men were thrown into the rough seas on Saturday afternoon: three survived, seven bodies have been recovered from the ocean and one is still missing. The Francie fishing charter capsized as it battled waves up to 4m and failed to make it back across the bar of the Kaipara Harbour.

Sharon Akaiti told 1News about witnessing the nightmare while she took a charter out on her dad's boat.

She said the whole crew didn't think anything would happen. Once they realised there was no response from Francie it "hit us really hard". There was nothing they could do to help as they watched emergency services rush past them.


"We just thought he's still coming through. The boat's still coming through.

"When word got through that there was no response. Everyone just went quiet. Nobody was talking.... There was nothing to say."

Akaiti is still in disbelief that a good day on the water could go so wrong.

"From an exciting day going fishing to everyone being so quiet. We never thought it'd be this tragic."

Akaiti said she knew one of the men who died.

"Just a couple of months ago he had taken a photo of me with my monster snapper and he goes, 'well done Sharon, you shamed the boys.'"