5 dead after New Zealand boat capsizes in possible whale attack

5 dead after New Zealand boat capsizes in possible whale attack

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Five people died after colliding with a whale when a small charter boat capsized in New Zealand on Saturday, officials said. The other 6 people on board were rescued.

Police said the 8.5-meter (28-foot) boat capsized near the South Island town of Kaikoura. Police said they are investigating the cause of the accident.

Kaikoura Police Sergeant Matt Boyce described it as a devastating and unprecedented event.

“Our thoughts are with the victims and their families, their local communities and everyone involved, including emergency personnel,” Boyce said.

According to him, police divers removed the bodies of all the dead. He said all six survivors were assessed as stable at a local health center and one was taken to Christchurch City Hospital as a precaution.

Kaikoura Mayor Craig Macleay told The Associated Press that the water was calm at the time of the accident and the whale was believed to have jumped under the boat.

He said there are several sperm whales in the area and several humpback whales also travel.

He said the locals helped rescue during the day, but that the atmosphere in the city was “abandoned” because the water was too cold and they feared the consequences of anyone falling into the sea.

McLee said he has considered the possibility of a boat-to-whale collision in the past given the number of whales frequenting the area.

“It is always thought that this could happen,” he said, adding that he had never heard of similar incidents before.

McLee said the boat is a charter vessel typically used for fishing trips. Reported by news agency staff The passengers were a group of bird lovers.

Police said they are still notifying relatives of the deceased and have not yet publicly released the identities of the victims.

Vanessa Chapman told Stuff that she and a group of friends were observing relief efforts in Goose Bay, near Kaikōura. According to him, when she got to the observation point, she saw a person sitting on an overturned boat and waving his hands.

Two rescue helicopters and a third local helicopter hovered before the jump, two divers said. She told Stuff that one person on top of the boat was rescued and a second person was pulled out of the water.

Kaikōura is a popular place for whale watching. The seabed abruptly recedes from the shore, creating deep water near the shore. Many companies offer boat or helicopter tours so that tourists can see whales, dolphins and other sea creatures up close.

Compliance agency Maritime New Zealand said it sent two investigators to the scene and was conducting a thorough investigation once the rescue operations were completed.

Chief Superintendent Tracy Phillips said the agency “expresses its deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives.”

Source: Washington Post