A helicopter search around the
Muttonbird Islands and an Airforce Orion searching west of
Stewart Island have failed to find any sign of a yacht,
missing for more than 10 days.
The 7.5m Munetra with three people on board left Bluff on
April 16, and was due to back in the southern port five days
The operation has entered a limited continuous search phase,
police said tonight.
That means the team will continue to regularly receive and
evaluate the latest information supplied from the Rescue
Coordination Centre about tidal patterns, current movements
and debris already located, to identify potential actions or
directions for future searches.
"The contribution of local experts and Rescue Co-ordination
Centre has been invaluable to the search management team to
ensure that every conceivable possibility has been looked at.
"The operation management team has also asked the local
fishing community to report any information that they believe
could be useful to the operation."
Police said they had hoped for a better outcome at this
stage, and their thoughts and sympathies remained with all
"Since Friday the combined efforts of Police, SAR staff, the
Airforce, Southern Lakes Helicopters, Coast guard Air-patrol
have put in three full days of searching in the vicinity and
wider locality of where the missing yacht was expected to be
"The local commercial fishing fleet have also been actively
carrying out observations during their routine fishing
Southland Police area commander Inspector Lane Todd said a
Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion today joined the
search, bolstering efforts made by a Coastguard plane on
Friday and two helicopters yesterday.
Regular broadcasts were continuing on marine radio.
The 33-year-old skipper was an ex-German immigrant who had
been living in Southland for the past four years.
The identity of two female passengers on board the vessel,
reportedly German tourists, had yet to be confirmed, Mr Todd
"We think we know who's on it, but we want to obviously check
that with the families and next of kin which we're struggling
to do at the moment."
The last person to speak to Munetra's skipper, Bluff Marine
Radio operator Meri Leask, said the yacht was in "unsuitable
waters" when it made radio contact in rough weather off
Centre Island on April 16.
Prospects of finding the yacht and those on board were
"grim", she said.
The veteran radio operator told the skipper to take shelter
alongside bigger vessels in seas being whipped up by strong
easterly winds, and told him that when he arrived at a lodge
on Preservation Inlet to advise Bluff authorities that the
yacht and its crew had arrived safely.
However, the skipper was headstrong and disregarded basic
safety advice, Ms Leask said.
"It didn't matter what you said. He just had his own way of
doing things and refused to listen to any other advice."
He had left Bluff without filing a travel plan and was using
an inadequate VHF handheld radio as his only means of
Ms Leask said the alarm was raised this week when a friend of
one of the female crew members reported the vessel overdue.
The skipper's employer was also concerned when he failed to
show up for work.
Mr Todd yesterday said the skipper had kept poor records of
his movements, and in the past hadn't been good at
communicating via his marine radio.