Photos show moment of fatal capsize

The devastated father of the skipper killed yesterday when his boat capsized near Greymouth, has spoken about the pain of losing his only son in the tragedy.

Nicholas Eklund (36) and two crew members were returning to port on fishing boat Lady Anna, when it rolled in heavy seas on the Greymouth bar about 7.30am.

Two of the men managed to cling to a flotation device and made it to shore, but Mr Eklund was washed off and drowned, despite a frantic rescue attempt.

The tragedy was captured by Cobden photography student Bob McAuliffe.

Speaking from his Christchurch home, Mike Eklund said he learnt of his son's death when a family member called to tell him.

The loss of his son followed the death of his only other child, a daughter, in a car accident a few years ago, Mr Eklund said.

''I'm upset ... My only son, my only surviving relative I have is Nick.''

Mr Eklund said he had ''a lot of good memories of what Nick was and how I'd like him to be remembered'' but was too upset to comment further.

The skipper is understood to have been an experienced fisherman, who had transferred to Lady Anna in the past three months.

Immediately following the accident, a person believed to be a friend of Nicholas Eklund reportedly attacked the Talley's office with an axe.

The independently owned Lady Anna, usually based in Nelson, had been fishing for the company.

A 42-year-old Greymouth man, charged with wilful damage, appeared in the Greymouth District Court yesterday.

A Talley's spokesman denied the incident had occurred.

''Our office was not attacked with an axe,'' he said, refusing to comment further on the incident or the boating tragedy.

Police, coastguard, the rescue helicopter, another fishing vessel and members of the public were all involved in the rescue.

''Conditions at the time were very rough, with large waves and a strong wind,'' a police spokesman said.

Sergeant Russell Glue, of Greymouth, said the vessel was partially submerged when it rolled over, before popping back up again and then rolling a second time, to end up in the river mouth.

Mr Eklund was guiding the 15m Lady Anna over the bar when a large wave crashed into it, flipping it and throwing the crew into the water directly off the Blaketown Tip head.

Rescue Co-ordination Centre spokesman Kevin Banaghan said two distress beacon notifications belonging to the boat were received when the vessel rolled.

The three men scrambled back on to the hull, before another wave washed them off. Onlookers threw lifebuoys to the two crew - a 27-year-old Greymouth man and a 42-year-old Christchurch man - from the opposite tip head at Cobden, and helped them ashore, but Mr Eklund was tossed about in the sea.

Worried bystanders also threw a life jacket and buoy towards him, but they were swept away from him.

''It just got worse and worse,'' Bob McAuliffe, a Cobden photography student, said.

He was initially relieved to see the men climb on to the upturned hull.

''But the next time I saw the boat, they weren't there. The waves were just so crazy. They just got washed off,'' he said.

''I was taking pictures and I saw the thing tip right before my eyes.

''I couldn't believe it ... I was looking through the camera and I see the thing go over.''

Mr Eklund was pulled unconscious from the water by local surfer Steve Newby.

Police and St John crews spent 15 minutes performing CPR but could not revive him and he was pronounced dead.

The survivors were taken to Grey Base Hospital. The 27-year-old was in a stable condition with grazes, and the 42-year-old was also stable, with hypothermia.

Mosgiel skipper Peter Scott, who used to own Lady Anna, said hearing the news of its swamping was hard.

''I also knew the guy driving it ... so it's not so flash.''

He had owned the wooden-bottom trawler for seven years so it held a lot of memories ''good and bad'', he said.

It had both float-free and manual beacons on board.

''It sounds like they went off automatically, so everyone knew what was happening.''

Maritime New Zealand is investigating. -

APNZ/Greymouth Star/Westport News

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