22 Mar 2019

Beacon saves three from sinking boat near Chatham Islands

7:05 pm on 22 March 2019

Three crew have been rescued from a sinking crayfish boat this morning thanks to a floating distress beacon that had only been recently installed.

At 8.20am the beacon was activated from Western Reef, 32km northwest of the Chatham Islands.

The owner, who was on land, confirmed there were three people on board the 10m cray fishing boat, Mary Ellen 2.

Two fishing boards headed to the scene and picked up the three crew members from the bow of the partially submerged vessel.

Rescue Coordination Centre NZ senior search and rescue officer Dave Wilson said the beacon saved their lives.

"The only way we knew they were in difficulty was the alert from the EPIRB distress beacon - it's vital to have one on board," he said.

"We used the local Chatham Islands VHF radio channel to request help for the stricken vessel."

After the boat was swamped by a wave, the skipper tried to dive down into the boat for the beacon but was unable to reach it.

Fortunately, it worked automatically and floated to the surface, alerting the rescue coordination centre.

Mr Wilson said the rescue only happened because the other boats tuned into the VHF network and were able to assist.

The beacons became compulsory on commercial fishing vessels from the 1 January and vessels between 7.5m and 24m operating outside enclosed waters are required to install it.