Video shows rescue from New Zealand boat on which 5 died

Mar 21, 2022, 7:06 AM | Updated: Mar 22, 2022, 12:19 am
This photo released by Northland Emergency Services Trust, shows Northland Rescue Helicopter pilot ...

This photo released by Northland Emergency Services Trust, shows Northland Rescue Helicopter pilot Lance Donnelly in Whangarei, New Zealand, Tuesday, March 22, 2022. Donnelly piloted a helicopter that winched five people to safety after a boating accident in which at least four people died on Sunday in far north New Zealand. (Steve Macmillan/Northland Emergency Services Trust via AP)

(Steve Macmillan/Northland Emergency Services Trust via AP)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A man clinging in the dark to the wreckage of a fishing boat let go and leapt into the arms of a rescue swimmer in a dramatic video shot from a New Zealand emergency helicopter after a boating accident in which five people died.

Rescuers and police divers on Tuesday found the fifth body in the water after the chartered boat that was carrying 10 people broke apart in stormy seas Sunday night.

Five people were rescued from the sea at around midnight after clinging to different sections of the overturned wreckage for hours, and four bodies were later recovered during daylight hours on Monday.

The video was shot from the Northland Rescue Helicopter at about 12:30 a.m. Monday after the boat’s rescue beacon was activated more than four hours earlier off the remote North Cape.

Helicopter pilot Lance Donnelly told The Associated Press he wore night vision goggles as they flew to the scene with a team that included another pilot, a winch operator and a rescue swimmer.

He said it was the most dramatic rescue he’s undertaken in 30 years of flying as they navigated the darkness and squally seas. They weren’t able to land somebody on the wreckage but instead put a tethered swimmer into the sea nearby.

Donnelly said they first rescued three people who’d climbed aboard a large piece of floating wreckage and then came back for two more about a kilometer (0.6 miles) away who were clinging to the overturned hull.

On the video, one rescuer can be heard issuing instructions.

“Clearances are good. At your discretion, if you want to tack right to the target. At 40 feet, 35, 30,” he says as the rescue swimmer is winched down into the sea. A man clinging to wreckage leaps off and stretches his arm out, and is grabbed by the rescuer.

Donnelly said that in the darkness, they couldn’t find the bodies of those who had died.

“I think that was probably one of the hardest things for our crew, is that we’d effected a rescue of five people and we were wondering where the other five were,” he said.

Called the Enchanter, the 17-meter (56-foot) boat had left the northern port of Mangonui on Thursday with two crew and eight passengers aboard for a planned five-day fishing trip to the remote Three Kings Islands.

News outlet RNZ identified one of those who died as Mark Sanders, a 43-year-old builder and dad to three children. Sanders’ father Graeme said his son was a talented sportsman and keen fisherman who had been looking forward to the fishing trip for two years.

“He was worried about the forecast for the last day or so that he was fishing,” Graeme Sanders told RNZ. “He told me that before he went — ‘The forecast doesn’t look good, we might have to come back early.'”

The five people who were rescued were admitted to a local hospital and later discharged.

The captain of the Enchanter, who reportedly survived the accident, could not be reached Tuesday. The website for the charter boat says customers can catch swordfish, bass and kingfish: “Charter fishing for the serious angler,” it says.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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Video shows rescue from New Zealand boat on which 5 died