Five People Killed as Small Boat Capsizes After Hitting Whale: Report

by Emily Morgan

After a small charter boat collided with a whale, five people in New Zealand are dead. According to authorities, the tragic accident occurred on Saturday when the vessel capsized from hitting the animal. Six other people who were on board were rescued.

Per reports from police, the 28-foot dingy flipped over near the South Island town of Kaikōura. Police also said they were continuing to determine the cause of the tragedy.

“This has been a tragic event and the police are providing support to those involved at this very difficult time,” Kaikōura Police Sergeant Matt Boyce told reporters at the scene.

The town’s Mayor, Craig Mackle, also told news reporters that the water was eerily still at the time of the incident, and the assumption was that a whale had come up from beneath the vessel.

He also said there were reports of several sperm and humpback whales traveling through the water at the time.

Mackle added that several locals in the area immediately rushed to help with the rescue mission throughout the day. However, many feared the water’s freezing temperatures meant that those who had fallen overboard would meet a tragic fate.

Mackle also admitted that he’d previously thought there could be a potential collision involving a whale and a boat since there are many whales in the area.

Mayor’s fear tragically comes true as whale capsizes fishing boat

“It always plays on your mind that it could happen,” he said, adding that he hadn’t heard about any previous incidents in the region.

Mackle also revealed that the boat was a fishing charter vessel.

Bystander Vanessa Chapman said she and a group of her friends had watched the rescue efforts unfold from Goose Bay, near the neighboring area of Kaikōura. According to Chapman, when she approached a lookout point, she saw a person perched on top of a capsized boat waving their arms for help.

Chapman said she saw two rescue helicopters and a third local helicopter circling the vessel before two divers leaped out from the choppers. She also said that the person atop the boat was saved, and a second person appeared to have been rescued from the water.

Many tourists travel to Kaikōura to see the whales that frequent the area. The seafloor drops off from the coast, creating deep waters close to the shore. As a result, several local businesses offer whale-watching excursions or helicopter rides so tourists can see whales up close.

Compliance agency Maritime New Zealand also said it sent two investigators to the area to conduct a thorough investigation once rescue efforts had ended.

Principal Investigator Tracy Phillips said the agency “offers its heartfelt condolences to the family and loved ones of the people who have died.”