Fishing boat tragedy: New footage shows wreckage of sunken charter vessel Enchanter

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Rescuers have confirmed that a fifth person is still missing. Video / Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust

New footage shows what remains of the chartered fishing vessel Enchanter after it sank in rough seas on Sunday night, leaving at least four people dead and one missing.

Video footage shows the wreckage is visible just below the surface of the water, a hull barely breaking through the surface. Other images show the pontoon bridge on its own, apart from the rest of the boat.

The video and photos were shot Monday from a Westpac helicopter involved in the massive search and rescue operation.

It shows a Navy boat involved in the rescue crossing calm seas under cloud-strewn skies – a far cry from the ferocious thunderstorms that swept across Northland hours earlier.

Ten people were on board when the Enchanter sank in heavy seas around 11 p.m. Sunday. A rogue wave reportedly hit the boat near Murimotu Island, breaking the bridge.

The deck of the ship (inset) appears to have been broken by a rogue wave.  Photos/Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust
The deck of the ship (inset) appears to have been broken by a rogue wave. Photos/Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust

Five survivors were rescued and the bodies of four people were found yesterday. The search continues this morning to find the last missing person.

New Zealand Maritime Rescue Coordination Center spokesman Nick Burt told RNZ this morning that one person may still be on the boat or may have been swept away.

The police dive team would play a crucial role this morning and examine the wreckage, Burt said.

“We have to explore all the possibilities.”

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Some survivors were found clinging to Enchanter’s hull by rescuers, Burt said, although they ended up in the water while being winched.

He estimated they had been in the water for about four hours before being rescued.

“I suspect the effects of hypothermia would certainly have started to kick in at that time.”

The Enchanter in its former glory, before fierce weather ripped the boat deck from its hull.  Photo / Enchanter.co.nz
The Enchanter in its former glory, before fierce weather ripped the boat deck from its hull. Photo / Enchanter.co.nz

In another statement this morning, Burt said it was likely the wreckage of the Enchanter would have drifted with the current overnight, so the first objective would be to locate it.

Conditions were mixed for the searchers, with poor visibility and showers, while moderate seas are forecast.

Today’s operation would be a mix of operations at sea and in the sea, with air support, Burt said. Three ships, two helicopters and a fixed-wing aircraft were believed to be involved and were heading out to sea around 8:30 a.m.

A Navy boat involved in Monday's search and rescue operation.  Image/Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust
A Navy boat involved in Monday’s search and rescue operation. Image/Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust

“Although we have a number of places of interest, we have to thoroughly check about 500 nautical miles of ocean,” he said.

The police dive team would be deployed if areas of interest were discovered.

Burt told RNZ earlier the operation was still being treated as an active search and rescue.

“We remain hopeful of finding the only missing person,” he added.

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

A protective order has been placed on all of the Enchanter’s remains to protect the evidence.

Anyone finding debris should report it to the police.

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