17 Mar 2012

Survival chances 'remote' for Foveaux Strait missing

8:52 am on 17 March 2012

The search for four people still missing after a fishing boat sank in in Foveaux Strait is moving from one of rescue to recovery, as police say the chances of anyone being found alive after spending two days in freezing water is now very remote.

One person survived when the Easy Rider with nine people on board sank in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Four bodies have since been recovered, and among the four still msising is a seven-year-old boy.

An Air Force Hercules arrived at Invercargill Airport on Friday and offloaded heavy diving equipment so police and Navy dive squads can begin their search of the sunken boat at first light Saturday morning.

A police spokesperson says one or two private search boats would remain on the water overnight on Friday.

Dallas Tumoana Reedy, 44, from Invercargill was rescued after spending 18 hours clinging to a plastic petrol container.

Earlier police released the names of those who were on board the fishing boat when it capsized.

One man who is confirmed dead is 29 year old Shane Ronald Topi, also from Invercargill

The others on board were William Karetai, 47, from Bluff, and Paul Fowler-Karetai, 40, Odin Karetai, 7, Boe Gillies, 28, John Karetai, 58, Peter Pekamu-Bloxham, 53 and David Fowler, 50, all from Invercargill.

The survivor, Mr Reedy, told Invercargill police conditions were good when the boat was struck by a rogue wave at about midnight on Wednesday, capsizing it almost immediately.

He said he and two others were on the deck when the wave hit and six other people were in the boat's wheel house.

He was plucked from the sea around Bishop and Clerks Islands, to the north of Stewart Island, just after 6pm on Thursday.

The Easy Rider had left Bluff for the Muttonbird Islands with three crew and six passengers about 7.30pm on Wednesday.

Emergency services were called the next evening, when the fishing boat failed to meet with a helicopter at Stewart Island during the afternoon.

Skipper helped in earlier rescue

The 12-metre Bluff-based Easy Rider was skippered by Rewai Karetai.

His aunt, Jill Karetai, told Morning Report she had many family members on board the boat. Some members of the extended family were on the search vessels as they left Bluff.

Mr Karetai had helped a rescue effort on Foveaux Strait in January.

The chair of the Bluff Community board, Jan Mitchell, told Nine to Noon that Mr Karetai was a tower of strength at that time and very good with the affected families.

It is the second major sea incident in Foveaux Strait. Six people, including two nine-year-old boys, died in May 2006 when their fishing trawler Kotuku sank in rough seas.