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10th Sep 2022

Five people killed as ‘whale collides with boat’ in ‘terrible’ collision at sea

Steve Hopkins

The boat reportedly contained a group of bird enthusiasts aged over 50

Five people have been killed and six were rescued after an “unprecedented” possible collision between a boat and a whale at sea in New Zealand on Saturday.

The incident, off the coast of Kaikoura, happened around 10am. The boat reportedly contained a group of bird enthusiasts aged over 50 and overturned around 10am.

The five bodies were recovered from inside the stricken boat, and Sergeant Matt Boyce said the families involved were being supported.

The incident occurred in calm seas with no waves, according to local media reports, neat Goose Bay.

Police believe the boat overturned in such a way that a whale may have been involved. Authorities had ruled out a log overturning the vessel as it would likely have punctured the hull rather than overturning it.

Kaikoura’s mayor confirmed the belief that the 8.5-meter boat had overturned after colliding with a whale, though it is yet to be officially confirmed.

Craig Mackle said: “We have an upturned boat tipped over by a whale from what we can understand, come up from underneath.

“We’ve shut the harbour down so that they can carry on working.”

An inspector from Maritime New Zealand is travelling from Christchurch to investigate what happened.

Mackle added at a press conference: “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.”

He continued: “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. Whales are common in the area and a local whale watch company recorded two humpback whales coming unusually close only recently.

The tourist site for the town says Kaikoura is the “perfect place for marine life encounters” and “whales, fur seals and dolphins live permanently in the coastal waters”.

Footage on social media showed the boat had flipped upside down and the surviving passenger perched on top of it.

Prime Minister Liz Truss has spoken to her New Zealand counterpart, Jacinda Arden, and expressed her condolences in a recent phone call where the Queen’s passing on Thursday was also discussed.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister also expressed her sincere condolences for New Zealand after the capsize of a boat off the coast of the South Island in recent hours.”

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