boat which capsized in the Hauraki Gulf this morning,
resulting in the deaths of two men, was probably overloaded
and too small for the rough conditions, authorities say.
The 4.9m aluminium vessel tipped over when a seasick
passenger shifted positions, throwing all seven men aboard
into the water between Waiheke Island and Papakohatu Island,
also known as Crusoe Island.
A mayday call was made from a nearby boat about 9.30am.
Five men were rescued but two drowned after being in the
water for about 45 minutes.
Coastguard northern region chief executive David Tommas said
the boat was probably overloaded and too small for the
"It was blowing at 20 to 30 knots out there and the sea was
running at 1.5 to 2m. We believe the vessel was 4.9m long
which, for seven people, is probably at the limits of its
operating capacity - particularly in this weather."
There did not appear to have been any life jackets or
emergency communications equipment on board.
Sergeant John Saunders said the ill man had needed to vomit
so moved from the bow to the back of the boat, which "had the
effect of lowering the stern very close to the water".
"They took on water over the back of the boat, and the effect
of all the water and the seven occupants caused the boat to
A nearby vessel raised the alarm and emergency services spent
the next hour trying to find and rescue the men, who had
become separated in the water. Three of the men were picked
up by a nearby boat and two others were rescued by a
The last two men found had been in the water for about 45
minutes and were "unconscious and unresponsive" as they were
pulled out, Mr Saunders said.
Paramedics performed CPR for about 20 minutes but were unable
to revive them
The men were all Pacific Islanders from Kiribati, Tonga and
Rarotonga. They were all family and friends aged between
about 25 and 50.
The boat's owner was among the survivors.
Asked whether the men should have been out out on the water
today, Mr Saunders said: 'Probably not, in a boat that size.
I think the boat was overloaded and was probably too small
for the conditions.
One of the survivors, who was suspected to have hypothermia,
was loaded on to a stretcher and into an ambulance at the
Marine Rescue Centre at Mechanics Bay.
The other four surviving men were wrapped in blankets and
given hot drinks as they were being interviewed by police at
the rescue centre.
Westpac Rescue Helicopter chief executive Bob Parkinson said:
"It's just another example of overcrowded small boats in
challenging conditions where people are inadequately
"It's just unbelievable. It's really quite a challenge how to
get this safety message across."
Hundreds of people were at the Westpac Rescue Helicopter's
open day today and would have witnessed the two dead men
being taken away in body bags at the wharf, Mr Parkinson
He said families were gathered at the chopper base, about 20m
away from where the bodies were taken off the Coastguard
vessel, to watch rescue demonstrations by the helicopter
"Some of them will have witnessed the body removal from the
Coastguard boats. That's done as discreetly as authorities
can but nevertheless it's quite sobering," Mr Parkinson said.
Maritime New Zealand is investigating.