Two men standing on an upturned boat and one man found clinging to the hull were rescued after they set off their distress beacon on Saturday evening in an operation coordinated by the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ).
Survivors clung to the upturned boat - and were rescued after an EPIRB was activated
The three men activated their distress beacon at 5.45pm on Saturday evening (29 June) after their 7 metre hard-topped trailer boat was hit by a wave and rolled when they were uplifting anchor. The men had been out fishing for the day and their boat was 11.5 nautical miles west-north-west of the Kawhia Harbour entrance.
A Westpac Rescue Auckland helicopter and a Coastguard vessel Gallagher Rescue were tasked by RCCNZ, and the helicopter arrived on scene at 7.30pm. The helicopter crew found two men wearing lifejackets standing on the upturned hull of their boat. They had to use their search light to locate a third man, who was clinging to the hull. He was not wearing a lifejacket.
The Rescue Coordination Centre was able to give the helicopter crew a very accurate position for the men from their distress beacon, which also had a strobe light. The helicopter was equipped with night vision and a winch, but they were unable to uplift the men, due to the prevailing conditions at the time. It remained on scene until the Coastguard vessel arrived at 8.15pm and directed the Coastguard crew to the upturned vessel.
The crew of Gallagher Rescue recovered the three men and returned to Raglan at around 10.45, where there was an ambulance waiting. The men were checked and treated for mild hypothermia. The helicopter crew had flown to Hamilton to refuel in case a medical evacuation was needed, but were stood down.
'It’s a textbook example of how effective beacons are', said RCCNZ Search and Rescue Officer Chris Henshaw. 'The 406MHz distress beacon was registered, so we were able to call the nominated emergency contact to establish the size of the party, type of vessel and what they were likely to be doing to inform the helicopter crew and Coastguard. The beacon meant we were able to get a very accurate position for the vessel and locate them easily. Westpac Rescue Auckland and Coastguard worked together in a very successful rescue,' said Mr Henshaw.
Coastguard had anchored the upturned trailer boat before departing the scene on Saturday night. On Sunday morning they went out to recover the boat and started to tow it back, but it sank before reaching the Raglan bar.
Had the men spent a night in the water, especially without a lifejacket, the outcome could have been very different. One of the helicopter crew commented 'it all worked out very well and they were very lucky'.