In New Zealand, five people died after their tour charter boat capsized after colliding with a whale, authorities say. Six more people were rescued from the boat.
New Zealand Police said the 8.5-meter tour boat overturned near the South Island of Kaikōura. Marine police said they were continuing to investigate the cause of the accident.
The Associated Press reported that police divers had recovered the bodies of all the victims. There were six survivors in stable condition at a local health center, with one transferred to a hospital in Christchurch as a precaution.
At the time of the accident, the water was dead calm and the assumption was that a whale had surfaced from beneath the boat.
A sperm whale and a humpback whale were in the area, according to Kaikōura Mayor Craig Mackle
Locals had assisted with rescue efforts throughout the day, but the mood in the town was “sombre” because the water was so cold and people feared what might happen to those who had fallen in.
The number of whales that frequent the area made Mackle think about the possibility of a boat and whale colliding.
The possibility of such an accident always plays on your mind,” he said, adding that he had never heard of any previous incidents.
The New Zealand Police said they were still notifying the relatives of those who died
Stuff reports that Vanessa Chapman spotted a person waving their arms atop an overturned boat from a lookout point.
She said that two rescue helicopters and a local helicopter circled the area before two divers jumped out. She said the person who was atop the boat was rescued, and a second person appeared to be pulled from the water by the rescuers.
Kaikōura, New Zealand is a popular whale-watching destination because deep waters are close to the shore. Tourists can see whales up close by taking boat trips or helicopter rides.
In response, Maritime New Zealand said it sent two investigators to the scene and would conduct an extensive investigation after recovery operations were completed.
Maritime New Zealand’s principal Investigator Tracy Phillips stated, her agency “offers its heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of those who have passed away.”
Source: The Associated Press