Fishing boat tragedy: Devastated family mourns father-of-three Mark Sanders

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A helicopter returns with the last victim in Te Pua, Far North. Photo / Michael Cunningham

The mother of a man who died in a boating accident in the Far North says her son was a ‘pretty popular and amazing guy’ who was on the ‘trip of his life’.

Ten people were on board the vessel Enchanter when it sank off the North Cape during a storm in the Far North on Sunday evening.

Five people who were taken to safety have since been discharged from Kaitaia hospital, including the boat’s captain, Lance Goodhew.

The bodies of four people have been recovered. Three people were found Monday morning and a fourth person was located early Monday afternoon.

Rescuers confirmed this evening that a fifth person is still missing and the search will resume tomorrow morning.

Gael Sanders said his son’s body was one of those found on Monday.

His youngest son, Mark Sanders, was a 43-year-old father of three who was an avid fisherman, sportsman and builder by trade.

Mark Sanders (inset) and the charter fishing boat Enchanter.  Photos / Provided
Mark Sanders (inset) and the charter fishing boat Enchanter. Photos / Provided

“He was a pretty good rugby player and he trained racehorses with his dad for a few years [and] had an Auckland Cup winner.”

Gael said he heard around 8 a.m. Monday morning that something had happened and since then it had been a “devastating” day.

“He had spoken to his family around 6 p.m. [Sunday] night. He has a wife and three children and was having such a wonderful and happy time. He had caught some amazing fish and it was the best time of his life.”

The 43-year-old father loved fishing and often fished with his father in Kawhia, Gael said.

“He loved his peach so much,” she said.

“The only good thing is we’re so happy they found his body. It’s very special. I hate to think of him alone. Six o’clock last night when he spoke to his family and he spoke to the three kids and his wife, he was so happy and it was just amazing.”

Mark Sanders, 43, was described by his mother as a "amazing guy" and avid fisherman.  Photo / Provided
Mark Sanders, 43, has been described by his mother as an “amazing guy” and an avid fisherman. Photo / Provided

Maritime New Zealand released a statement later today saying “rescuers are focused on finding” the fifth missing person.

“There is an active search for the remaining missing person, and rescuers… will explore all options. Police divers also arrived at the scene this evening and will depart tomorrow morning.”

Police divers arrived at the scene on Monday evening and will continue the search. The search conditions tomorrow morning are favourable.

Relief coordination spokesman Nick Burt said their thoughts were with those affected and their families.

“Conditions were difficult for rescuers, this afternoon search teams battled squalls which hampered search efforts,” he said.

Far North iwi Ngāti Kuri issued a rāhui on Monday afternoon, which will be in place for the next week from Tohoraha to Murimotu in the North Cape.

The iwi asks people to “respect” the rāhui.

“Please respect the rāhui as you can imagine our whānau at home are shaken and saddened.”

Ngāti Kuri said his thoughts are with the families who have lost loved ones and the rescue teams helping with the search.

Iwi chief Penetaui Kleskovic said Monday afternoon he was in contact with search teams.

“Thoughts, prayers, condolences, sympathy to all whānau involved – especially those who will rest their loved ones.”

The Transportation Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) has opened an investigation into the incident.

A protective order has been placed on all the remains of “The Enchanter” to protect the evidence.

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