Woman sent family HAUNTING final photo hours before whale slammed into her boat killing five onboard

The charter boat, carrying 11 persons over the age of 50, was capsized by a whale as they were photographing albatrosses

Woman sent family HAUNTING final photo hours before whale slammed into her boat killing five onboard
Diana Stewart pictured here on a previous photographic outing (Photo: Diane Stewart/Facebook)
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KAIKOURA, NEW ZEALAND: The tragic final photo a keen photographer took only hours before her death when a breaching whale wrecked the boat she was aboard has been released by her family. On a boat excursion organised by the Nature Photographic Society on Saturday morning at Goose Bay, close to Kaikoura, on the east coast of New Zealand's south island, Diana Stewart, 68, was one of five passengers who perished.

At around 10 am local time, an 8.5-meter charter boat carrying 11 persons over the age of 50 was capsized by a whale as they were photographing albatrosses. The skipper and six other passengers on board were all saved and discharged from the hospital after being evaluated. Before boarding the tragic ship, Stewart captured a breathtaking photo of the pink and purple dawn over the water near Kaikoura and emailed it to her family.

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The Christchurch-based photographer frequently travelled around New Zealand's scenic areas with the Nature Photographic Society. Her son Fletcher Stewart said that the Kaikoura boat trip was one his mother 'wanted to do for years'. "Diana was a very talented photographer and enjoyed travelling to remote parts of New Zealand to photograph what would always turn out to be unique pictures of landscapes and wildlife," he told Stuff.

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Diana Stewart was on a trip to photograph albatrosses, something she had wanted to do for years. She is pictured here on a previous photographic outing (Photo: Diane Stewart/Facebook)
Diana Stewart was on a trip to photograph albatrosses, something she had wanted to do for years. She is pictured here on a previous photographic outing (Photo: Diane Stewart/Facebook)

"Mum made many close friends through their shared passion; they remember her kindness and generosity. She always helped new photographers who were just starting out, and was always there with guidance and advice." Fletcher said his mother's talents also extended to fashion, painting and craft. He added the family would remember his 'wonderful' mother 'most for her kindness, her caring and generosity'. "Her number one priority was family and was always there when we needed her."

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Stewart was killed alongside Christchurch man Peter Charles Hockley, Lower Hutt woman Cathye Haddock and her longtime friend Susan Cade when the fishing boat they were on flipped over. The identity of the tragedy's fifth victim is still unknown. Police have not yet determined what caused the boat to capsize, but they believe a breaching whale was to blame. About two hours after the remains were pulled from the 10°C water and brought to land on Saturday, an NZ police dive team arrived on the site. Around 4 o'clock, the yacht was brought into port after five dead were found inside the cabin. One passenger was seen sitting on top of the capsized boat while waiting to be rescued in heartbreaking photographs.

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Family of a keen photographer who was tragically killed when a breaching whale capsized the boat (Photo: Diane Stewart/Facebook)
Family of a keen photographer who was tragically killed when a breaching whale capsized the boat (Photo: Diane Stewart/Facebook)

Given the recent reports of massive whale sightings in the vicinity, Kaikoura Mayor Craig Mackle asserted that a whale had surfaced from beneath the boat. He claimed several sperm and humpback whales were passing through the region, but he was unsure what kind of whale may have struck the ship.

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"We have an upturned boat tipped over by a whale from what we can understand, come up from underneath," Mackle said. The mayor added that he had thought in the past about the possibility of a boat and whale colliding, given the number of whales that frequent the area. He added the water was 'bloody cold' and the outcome for anybody who had fallen overboard was not likely to be good. "This is a tragic event that affects many lives, not least of all families and loved ones. Our heartfelt sorrow and condolences to you all. I would like to thank everyone involved in the rescue and the recovery. Being able to bring everyone home is the best result in such a terrible circumstance."

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Although whale activity is expected in the waters around Kaikoura, no one has ever heard of a boat being struck. According to reports, there was little hazard on the sea other than the prominent presence of humpback and sperm whales off the shore and tiny waves. The Transport Accident Investigation Commission of New Zealand is looking for witnesses at Goose Bay when the tragedy occurred. Anyone who witnessed or captured what happened before, during, or after the disaster is urged by the panel to come forward.

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The incident is the subject of an inquiry.

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