The survivor of the fishing ship that sank in Foveaux strait on Wednesday night has spoken of the moment the vessel was struck by a rogue wave.
Dallas Reedy, 44, of Invercargill was rescued at about 6pm Thursday evening after spending 16 hours in the water clinging to a plastic petrol can.
Four bodies, all adult men, have been found in the search area near the north western tip of Stewart Island.
Four people, including a seven-year-old boy, are still missing.
Mr Reedy told TVNZ he was on the deck of the fishing boat, Easy Rider, when the wave struck.
"I felt the water surge, the wave came and broached the boat I got washed over the side I grabbed a rope and got swung around to the back."
Mr Reedy said the boat flipped over on to its keel and he climbed on top of it where he remained for two hours before it finally sank.
He survived for a further 16 hours clinging to a petrol can to stay afloat.
Mr Reedy said that during his ordeal he thought of his friend Rob Hewitt, who survived three days in the waters off Kapiti Island in 2006.
"I'm going to email him later just to say I thought about him a lot on the water - about his wetsuit. I could have done with that one there."
Mr Reedy said he'd known Rob Hewitt since school days when they sat next to each other in class.
A Search and Rescue operation was to continue until nightfall involving 12 vessels from the Navy, Coastguard and private commercial ships.