Rescuers have recovered the body of a fifth missing person after a fishing charter boat sank during a storm in the Far North last night.
Five people who were plucked to safety are now out of hospital, with the skipper of the vessel among the survivors.
The bodies of three people were found this morning, and a fourth was recovered early this afternoon.
The Herald understands the fifth body has been found late this afternoon.
Five people have been discharged from Kaitaia Hospital – including the boat’s skipper, Lance Goodhew.
It’s understood the charter boat, Enchanter, first raised the alarm just after 8pm yesterday.
Far North iwi Ngāti Kuri issued a rāhui this afternoon which will be in place for the next week from Tohoraha to Murimotu at the North Cape.
The iwi is asking people to “respect” the rāhui.
“Please respect the rāhuias you can imagine our whānau at home are shaken and saddened.”
Ngāti Kuri said their thoughts are with the families who have lost loved ones and the rescue teams helping the search.
Iwi leader Penetaui Kleskovic said earlier this afternoon that he’s in contact with search crews.
“Four people have been found dead now … five rescued. They were all people who were keen fishermen and people who want to go out and enjoy the treats and beauty of the north,” he said
“The saddest part is, they won’t go home. Thoughts, prayers, condolences, sympathy to all the whanau involved – especially those who will be laying their loved ones to rest.”
He says kaumatua will place a rāhui on the area.
Police confirmed the fourth body was located in the water and retrieved this afternoon by a vessel supporting the search operation.
“Search efforts, led by the Rescue Co-ordination Centre at Maritime NZ, are ongoing to locate a fifth person who remains unaccounted for,” police said earlier.
Meanwhile, the transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) has opened an inquiry into the incident.
A protection order has been placed on all remains of the “Enchanter” to protect evidence.
A spokesperson said TAIC investigators will be in the Far North speaking to people who may have information and is encouraging anyone who may have details to come forward.
“The Transport Accident Investigation Commission opens an inquiry when it believes the circumstances of an accident or incident have – or are likely to have – significant implications for transport safety, or when the inquiry may allow the Commission to make findings or recommendations to improve transport safety.”
Westpac Rescue Helicopter Pilot James Tayler said he and his crew travelled from Auckland to join the rescue on Monday morning. He and his team were tasked to help with the rescue, search and recovery of the fishermen of the Enchanted.
While conditions were bad in the morning, Tayler said conditions cleared up allowing for the recovery of bodies to go ahead.
“At least we can give the families some closure and the improvement in weather did make it much easier.”
It is understood a group of people from Auckland and the Waikato were onboard the Enchanter fishing vessel when it first raised the alarm.
Goodhew, an experienced skipper, then radioed in to Radio Mangonui at 10pm saying he was about an hour off North Cape before losing signal, iwi leader Penetaui Kleskovic said.
An hour later the boat was submerged underwater at Murimotu, leaving the 10 onboard scrambling for survival.
“Apparently it was on their journey north back to the Three Kings that they struck torrential weather.”
Kleskovic said from the time the boat sank five people had been rescued.
“It’s just a miracle any of them survived. The swells were two to three metres and are coming down to 1.5 metres today,” he said.
The charter boat left from its base in Mangonui in the Far North for a five-day fishing trip and there was understood to have been the skipper, a crew hand and a group from Auckland and Waikato onboard.
“It’s inconceivable why he would have gone out in that weather.”
Kleskovic said they were all saddened by the turn of events.
“It’s a dark day for the peninsula community given the maritime tragedy. Condolences and thoughts with all the whanau affected.”
A midnight mercy mission saw the Enchanter’s sister vessel, the Pacific Invader, leave Mangonui Harbour during the ferocious storm to help search for the missing boat, a former charter boat skipper said.
The former skipper, who would not be named, said the Pacific Invader set out after hearing the Enchanter was sinking.
The former skipper said the Enchanter’s captain was well known and respected.
“Everyone knows Lance – he’s been chartering a long time.”
“It just takes one bad wave,” he said, noting the horrendous weather that had struck the North overnight.
A man who was on a fishing charter at the Three Kings at the weekend said his skipper pulled the pin on the trip at dawn yesterday and the sea was already rough then.
“Was still a rocking trip back home. Wouldn’t want to be in anything worse.”
The bodies of two people had been found in the water and were recovered by helicopter this morning and a third body had been recovered by a vessel assisting with the water search, police confirmed earlier today.
An emergency beacon alert was received last night around 8pm from southeast of North Cape, according to Maritime NZ spokesman Nick Burt, whose organisation is leading the rescue effort.
A helicopter was first on scene at the remote location, arriving around 11.40pm.
Burt said a significant rescue operation had been underway with a number of agencies working together, including HMNZS Taupo, which co-ordinated the maritime search.
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