BY DAVID BARBER
Wellington (dpa) – Seven people from the same family, including several children, were reported missing Thursday after a fishing boat sank off southern New Zealand, news reports said, as the body of an eighth person was recovered from icy waters.
One unidentified survivor was also reported to have been plucked from the sea about 18 hours after the boat, named Easy Rider, capsized about midnight Wednesday in the 30-kilometre-wide Foveaux Strait separating Stewart Island from the bottom of the South Island.
The alarm was not raised until 14 hours after the 11.6-metre boat, which reportedly left the port of Bluff on the mainland in poor weather Wednesday night, failed to make a rendezvous on Stewart Island.
The New Zealand Herald website reported that boat was skippered by Rewai Karetai, 47, who was making a family outing to catch muttonbirds, a seabird also known as sooty shearwaters.
They are a delicacy for many indigenous Maoris who have a traditional legal right to take them from their breeding grounds on the small islands off Stewart Island.
The Herald quoted an aunt, Jill Karetai, as saying the family went muttonbirding every year. “It’s horrible because we know there’s some babies [young children] on board and two or three or four at least of my brother-in-laws and nephews. It’s just dreadful,” she said.
The report quoted an unnamed boating source at the Bluff port as saying the conditions were “pretty atrocious.”
“They probably shouldn’t have gone. I’ve been in the business for 45 years and if anyone would know it would be me,” the source said.
“Personally, I wouldn’t have gone out of the harbour.”
A major search and rescue operation was underway, police said.