Tragic discovery - German sailors feared drowned off New Zealand

Munetra before she left
.. .
There has still been no sign of the yacht or the crew, but, in a tragic development, the liferaft of the missing yacht Munetra, which disappeared off the coast of New Zealand with a crew of three German nationals, has been discovered by local fishermen, as well as a cushion from the yacht.

Southland area commander Inspector Lane Todd said a liferaft and squab belonging to the Munetra were washed up during the past few days. The liferaft was found by fishermen on the southern end of Stewart Island and the squab was found along the the coast near Colac Bay.

The 7.5-metre Munetra set sail from Bluff on April 16 and was due back in port on April 22.

There had been no trace of the boat or 33-year-old German skipper Andre Kinzler and German tourists Lea Tietz and Veronika Steudler, both 19, since it left Bluff for Preservation Inlet in Fiordland.

Members of Tietz and Steudler's families arrived in Invercargill at the weekend and police have kept the families of the three people missing on the Munetra fully briefed of the latest developments. The two teens were on a gap year in New Zealand and Kinzler was working on a dairy farm in Central Southland.

The raft was taken to Bluff, where police inquiries verified it was from the Munetra, Todd said.

Bluff Marine Radio operator Meri Leask said the fishermen had done a marvellous job spotting the liferaft. Wind and currents would have caused the debris to drift, Leask said.

Last week, Kinzler's boss and Central Southland farmer Jim Cooper said the skipper had a liferaft with him, which was almost bigger than the boat, as well as a kayak tied to the side.

In addition to the liferaft, a squab, also identified as belonging to the Munetra, was found at Pahia on Monday afternoon in an area on the south coast beyond Colac Bay. It was found by a resident who contacted police.

Yesterday, police and about 15 LandSAR volunteers scoured an area of the South Island's southern coastline from Colac Bay to Rowellanburn, west of Tuatapere, to search for any further signs of the missing yacht.

The search began at low tide at 1pm and was conducted on foot and on four-wheel motorbikes, Todd said. Nothing of significance was found in yesterday's search.

A large-scale search involving police, the air force, Southern Lakes Helicopters and the coastguard air-patrol had put in three full days of searching in the area where the missing yacht was expected to be.

People aboard fishing vessels had been asked to keep an eye out for any sign of the yacht.
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