The search continues for a missing fisherman following the disappearance of the charter boat, Francie, as it tried to re-enter the Kaipara Harbour in New Zealand in bad weather.

Seven people are dead and one remains missing after the fishing charter vessel, Francie, disappeared as it tried to enter Kaipara Harbour near Auckland, New Zealand, in four-metre waves.

Three further people were rescued in the disaster, which happened on the afternoon of Saturday 26 November 2016.

The men were a group of friends aged between 31 and 59-years-old who are understood to have regularly chartered the Francie around once a month. The 12-metre steel charter boat can carry a maximum 20 passengers and two crew.

All were of Pacific Island descent except the boat’s skipper, Bill McNatty, who came from the local area.

In a media statement, the New Zealand Coastguard Northern Region said the skipper of the Francie lodged a Bar Crossing Report with Coastguard Radio, stating the vessel was inbound across the Kaipara Bar with 11 people on-board and requested a 60 minute watch.

Bar Crossing Reports are a standard code of practice in New Zealand, used mainly by the crew of fishing vessels when entering bar harbours or river entrances.

The code was introduced following widespread concerns over a number of fatal accidents.

Sea conditions at the time of the incident were described by the Coastguard as “huge standing waves in excess of four metres”.

“The alarm was sounded in the Coastguard Northern Region Operations Centre at 1502 hours when the Bar Crossing Report expired and attempts to contact Francie via VHF Marine Radio and mobile were unsuccessful, in addition local boats were unable to sight a vessel on the bar,” said the statement

Coastguard Northern Region Operations Centre then coordinated a response to the incident over the next six hours, working with Police and other emergency services.

Coastguard Air Patrol and rescue vessel, Winstone Rescue, from Coastguard Kaipara, were immediately deployed to search for survivors.

The search area was initially confined to the Kaipara Harbour entrance and bar area and then progressed south based on conditions.

Coastguard Rescue Vessel skipper, Iain Guilford, described the sea conditions as “trying with huge standing waves in excess of four metres”.

He said the training of the Coastguard volunteers were brought “to the fore in challenging circumstances.”

“It’s never easy being part of an incident where you can’t bring people home to their families. Our thoughts are with everyone involved,” said Guilford.

Police said the three survivors of the tragedy have now been released from hospital.

Family liaison officers have been assigned to the families of each of the men on board the Francie.

Officers are continuing the look for the last missing man, and are using quad bikes to search the shoreline.

Debris from the fishing boat has been washing ashore along the coast.

Maritime New Zealand has launched an investigation into the incident.


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