Searchers find wreckage of New Zealand fishing boat 'Jubilee'

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Monday, October 19, 2015

Ariel view of the mouth of the Rakaia River, from file. The wreck site is nearby.
Image: Phillip Capper.

Searchers looking for New Zealand fishing boat FV Jubilee found the vessel on the sea floor overnight local time (UTC+13).

The search was sparked by a mayday call from the three-man crew early yesterday morning. The three fishermen said they were abandoning ship in favour of a lifeboat. The search, which covered roughly 170 square km, earlier located an empty lifeboat from FV Jubilee.

A police dive team was sent today to look for bodies. Police and owner-operator Ocean Fisheries believe the missing men are deceased. Weather conditions at the site, around 40 m deep and 22 km from the Rakaia River mouth, are reported with dropping wind and swells of 1.5 m.

"The sea conditions were rough," said Ocean Fisheries boss Andrew Stark; "without knowing what was going wrong with the vessel we really can't speculate, whether the sea was a cause or a contributing factor. Rough conditions are usual at sea, so we don't believe the weather was severe enough to be the main contributing factor. There must have been something involved prior to that which caused the vessel to sink."

Stark said the accident is "a mystery". He said the company had trawled the area with other ships in the hope of retrieving corpses from the sea bed. In addition to Ocean Fisheries boats FV Legacy and FV Frontier, which used technology designed for locating fish to search for the wreck, search vehicles included a helicopter, a plane, and two Coastguard vessels. An emergency beacon, oil, fishing bins, and documentation are among the floating debris found.

Launched in January 2008, FV Jubilee is 16 m long and weighs 100 t.