'Unprecedented event': Five dead and six rescued after tourist boat collides 'WITH WHALE'

Authorities say that the water was dead calm at the time of the accident and the assumption was that a whale had surfaced from beneath the boat

'Unprecedented event': Five dead and six rescued after tourist boat collides 'WITH WHALE'
Six others were rescued after the 28-foot charter vessel capsized in a popular whale-watching area (Screeshots/Stuff and 1News)
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SOUTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND: Five women died and six were rescued after an 8.5-meter boat with 11 people on board capsized off Goose Bay in Kaikōura around 10 a.m. on Saturday, September 10. The survivors were taken to hospital and later released, with only one suffering minor injuries.

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As 1News reports, the deceased, who were over 50 years old, were on a bird-watching tour and had chartered the boat. As RNZ reports, the six survivors were taken to Kaikōura Health Center after the incident, and the one with minor injuries was transferred to Christchurch Hospital as a precaution. Kaikōur police said the boat overturned after a collision but did not confirm what it collided with. However, Kaikōura Mayor Craig Mackle said he believed the boat had collided with a whale. He said, "We have an upturned boat tipped over by a whale, from what we can understand come up from underneath. We've shut the harbor down so that they can carry on working." A group of volunteers helped, and boats were "kept at a minimum to keep the rescue effort co-ordinated, and ensure the slipway stayed clear," Mackle said.

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Vanessa Chapman told Stuff that she and her friends watched the rescue efforts since 11 am near Kaikōura. She said that when she arrived at a lookout spot, she could see a person sitting atop an overturned boat waving their arms. She said two rescue helicopters and a third local helicopter were circling before two divers jumped out. She told that the person atop the boat was rescued and a second person appeared to have been pulled from the water. "Then another local boat has pulled in, and we believe someone was put on that boat, and then he shot straight into town and the helicopters have just been searching. They still are," she explained. "An ambulance was parked up nearby. The conditions were absolutely calm. A wee bit of a roll, but it's unreal to think someone has capsized their boat,” she added.

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Kaikōura Sergeant Matt Boyce called the incident an “unprecedented event” and a tragedy and that police were working to formally identify the dead, according to the NZ Herald. Tracy Phillips, Maritime NZ Principal Investigator, said the organization had sent two investigators from Christchurch to Kaikoura. She said, "Any investigation activity will commence only after rescue/recovery operations have concluded. We'll be conducting a thorough investigation under the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Maritime Transport Act and we'll do everything we can to support NZ Police in their investigation."

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