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Men rescued after boat capsize off Wellington coast

Men rescued after boat capsize off Wellington coast

A search and rescue operation off Wellington’s South Coast today illustrates the importance of boaties having at least two forms of communications equipment on board.

Three men whose 4 metre runabout capsized in heavy seas off Wellington’s South Coast on Thursday night spent long hours in the water before rescue.

The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) said had the men had communications equipment on board their boat, they could have contacted rescuers much sooner and spent far less time in the sea.

The boat was reported overdue to police at about 6.00 on Thursday evening. Its engine was reported to have stalled off Sinclair Head and it was overwhelmed by the large seas and sank immediately. One of the crew made it to shore at Owhiro Bay at about 3.45am.

RCCNZ took over the search and rescue operation at 6.00am today, developing a search area and tasking three helicopters and four vessels. The onsite coordination was provided by the police launch Lady Elizabeth IV.

One of the two men still missing was sighted by a helicopter at about 10.00am and recovered aboard the Coastguard boat Spirit of Wellington. He is reported to be fit and well. The third man was spotted a few minutes later and the Westpac rescue helicopter has airlifted him to Wellington in a serious condition.

Search and Rescue Officer John Dickson said the rescue could have happened much sooner if the men had communications equipment that enabled them to make contact even after they were in the water. “If any of the three had been able to radio or phone for help, we would have known straight away where to look for them.

"These men would have been at considerably less risk of losing their lives if they had been carrying the appropriate communications equipment,” he said.

“We advise all boaties to carry two forms of reliable communications equipment to avoid getting into this situation – once you’re in the water with no means of calling for help, your chances of being rescued are greatly reduced.”

RCCNZ recommends as well that boat owners equip themselves with a distress beacon, which is easily activated and greatly reduces search efforts by speeding up rescues. Registering a distress beacon is a free service provided by RCCNZ.

Mr Dickson said the men probably survived the long period they spent in the water because they were wearing wetsuits and lifejackets, which provided buoyancy and insulation from the cold. However, he said at least one of them was wearing only the lower half of a wetsuit and a kapok lifejacket. He said it is important for boaties to update their gear to ensure they have the best possible protection.

ENDS

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