A Southland boat skipper shed tears yesterday as he
recounted a Foveaux Strait fishing trip which turned to tragedy
and ended in the death of his son and his best friend.
Barry Bethune told a coroner's inquest in Invercargill his
catamaran Extreme One was well equipped and well
maintained, but there was nothing he could do when a massive
wave hit the vessel side-on during an evening fishing trip on
January 3 this year.
The boat was flipped immediately and sank within 10 minutes,
he said, taking with it his emergency VHF radio and emergency
position indicator radio beacon (EPIRB).
All five aboard were wearing life jackets. They climbed on to
the hull but were unable to call for help because their
cellphones were wet. When the boat sank, they linked arms and
began swimming towards White Island.
After several hours in the cold water, Mr Bethune's son Shaun
David Bethune (23), of Ryal Bush, and Lindsay James Cullen
(59), of Brydone, died and Mr Bethune and sisters Denise
Zonneveld and Carol Saxton had to make the decision to let
their bodies go.
They spotted the boat Easy Rider moored off Ruapuke Island
and swam to it. No-one was on the boat, but their cries of
help were heard about 10pm by boat-owner Rewai Karetai and
his wife, Gloria Davis, who were camping on the island. Mr
Karetai rowed out to them in a dinghy and towed them to
Mr Karetai and seven others died in Foveaux Strait two months
later when Easy Rider capsized and sank.
Mr Bethune said he was steering Extreme One in
"sloppy" waves when the large wave hit.
"I didn't see it coming ..."
Ms Zonneveld, of Edendale, was a friend of Mr Cullen's. Her
sister was visiting from Wellington. Both were keen anglers
and accepted an invitation to go fishing.
The sisters were wearing several layers of clothing,
including thermals and leggings but the men were lightly
dressed in jeans, T-shirts and sweatshirts.
Ms Saxton said she was in the cabin when she saw a wall of
water "like light blue glass" come across the boat from the
"I instantly knew that we were in a lot of trouble. The wave
didn't hit gently. It felt like we were in a washing
All three survivors said they knew Shaun Bethune and Mr
Cullen were dead when they went blue and became
non-responsive during the swim.
Mr Bethune cradled his son before letting him go, Ms Saxton
said. Mr Cullen had been swimming between the two women and
they made the decision together to release his body, she
The bodies of both men were recovered by Coastguard personnel
early the next morning.
Maritime New Zealand accident investigator Ian Howden told
the inquest it was well known that rogue waves could "come
from nowhere" in Foveaux Strait.
After the Kotuku sank in 2006, with the loss of six
lives, wave warnings were entered on Foveaux Strait marine
To coroner David Crerar, he said Maritime New Zealand's
strong recommendation was for a boat to have on board two
means of communication, including a cellphone in a waterproof
container or bag.
Boaties should also wear as many layers as possible to
enhance their chances of survival, as well as a wrap-around
lifejacket, he said.
Mr Crerar found Shaun Bethune and Mr Cullen died of
hypothermia. He endorsed Maritime New Zealand's safety
"There is nothing we can do to bring back the two who have
perished, but we can circulate the appropriate information to
hopefully stop this happening again."