Seven people are confirmed dead and one person missing after a freak accident in New Zealand. According to the Associated Press, the incident happened when a small chartered fishing boat carrying a group of people encountered a large wave and was pulled underwater. Initial reports add that the boat had encountered a sandbar near the entrance to a harbor. The incident happened near the coast of Auckland city at around 2 p.m., local time on Saturday. Local authorities later confirmed that the small fishing boat encountered an unprecedentedly large wave near the Kaipara Harbor and disappeared into the waters as it attempted to enter the harbor.
The boat, which was christened Francie, was reportedly chartered by a group and had a total of 11 people onboard when the incident happened. Minutes after the accident, rescuers managed to pull out three survivors, all of whom were quickly taken to a local hospital for treatment. A fourth individual remains missing at the time of filing this report and the search for him is still underway. They were, however, unable to rescue seven people, all of whom have been confirmed dead.
According to police inspector Duncan Hall, the crew members of the boat had notified the local coast guard authorities before it started its attempt to enter the harbor. He added that the crew had also informed coast guard authorities about the fact that the boat had encountered a sand bar near the entrance to the harbor. This was also confirmed by coast guard chief executive Patrick Holmes. More than half-an-hour after the crew announced their intention to enter the harbor, they were still not seen, and the coast guard raised an alarm and initiated a rescue effort. The boat was also not contactable via radio or on mobile phone.
The coast guard also contacted other boats in the vicinity, all of whom reported back saying that they were unable to locate Francie. However, they were still under the assumption that the boat had not sunk. It soon became clear that something was wrong. Authorities called in rescue helicopters to look for the missing boat and to locate any survivors. Minutes after the helicopters arrived, they were able to locate three survivors, all of whom were pulled up from the waters. As reported earlier, all three were taken to a local hospital for treatment. Their conditions at this time remains unclear. Authorities have launched an investigation into the incident. The prime suspect remains the sandbar that had formed near the harbor. According to initial reports, on the day of the incident, the waves near the sandbar, just outside the harbor were about four meters (13 feet) high.
According to experts, the formation of these sandbars (caused by sand deposits building up on the seafloor) can happen in areas where the calmer waters of the protected harbor meets the turbulent waters of the open sea. These deposits can affect waves tremendously and can cause them to become larger than usual, thanks to the raised seafloor. When asked about the threats these sandbar pose to boats, coast guard chief executive Patrick Holmes said the following.
“All sandbar crossings are dangerous. They shift with storms and tides, so the bars are not in exactly the same position. Because it’s a disturbance of the seafloor, the action of the waves becomes distorted and irregular.”
The investigation is also on about the history of the boat involved in the incident. The fishing boat was owned by Francie charters. Their Facebook page describes the boat and adds that it was licensed to carry 20 people. The description on their Facebook page reads as follows.
“We at Francie Charters are one of only a handful of charter boat on the Kaipara Harbor, we cater for all fishing persons young and old, Our boat the Francie is under Maritime NZ survey. We are licensed to carry up to 20 persons at one time with 2 crew.”
[Featured Image by Francie Charters/Facebook]