Two people and a dog were winched from a life raft to the safety of an Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter after abandoning their sinking fishing boat about 2km off Tautuku Beach on Monday, March 7.
A Maritime New Zealand Rescue Co›ordination Centre spokesman said the centre was made aware of a distress call via maritime radio at 11.30am and a rescue helicopter arrived on the scene 55min later.
Weather conditions at the time were wet and windy with strong swells and the crew also activated an emergency position›indicating radio beacon to assist the searchers in finding their location off the Catlins coast.
Dunedin Search and Rescue co›ordinator Martin Balch said the crew of Port Chalmers›based Aurora 7459 were lucky to escape uninjured, but were taken to Dunedin Hospital as a precaution.
“In general, any vessel sinking out at sea is inherently always dangerous. They were lucky. They had good radio comms so we knew where they were.”
Maritime New Zealand said it was not yet known what caused the sinking and an investigation has been launched.
The lost vessel was in the news in January this year, after crew were accused of dumping fish waste overboard near a popular swimming spot in Caroline Bay, Timaru, and was investigated by the Environment Canterbury Regional Council.
Council southern zone lead Peter Burt said its investigation had found a small amount of fish waste was discharged from the vessel.
“This was not acceptable practice, even though most of the waste was quickly consumed by seabirds. We took an educational approach with the captain involved, who acknowledged his actions were not best practice and agreed to be more responsible in the future.”
Attempts to contact Wayne ‘‘Jingles’’ Jolly, the skipper and owner of Aurora 7459, have not been successful.
Many in the Port Chalmers fishing community described Mr Jolly as ‘‘a colourful character’’ and ‘‘a loveable rogue’’, and said Aurora 7459 appeared to be poorly maintained.