20 Apr 2012

Korean knew he'd done wrong - NZ captain

7:52 pm on 20 April 2012

A New Zealand fishing boat captain who spear-headed rescue efforts when a Korean vessel sank says the Korean captain's decision to go down with his boat suggests he knew he had done something wrong.

Greg Lyall has been giving evidence at an inquest into the deaths of six men on board the Oyang 70, which sank off the South Island in August 2010, after its captain insisted on hauling aboard a very heavy net of fish.

He and his crew managed to rescue 45 people from the Oyang 70 and also transported three bodies back to New Zealand.

Captain Lyall says the survivors told his crew the master of the Oyang 70 had insisted on taking the large catch on board, despite deck hands telling him the bag was too big.

Findings from the inquest into the deaths were reserved when hearings concluded on Friday.

Distress calls bungled - experts

Rescue experts say the crew of the Korean vessel failed to properly communicate to other ships that it was in distress.

Rescue Coordination Centre general manager of safety services, Nigel Clifford, says that during a maritime emergency it is best to broadcast an alert as widely as possible, but the Oyang 70 crew only set off a distress beacon and made some calls on a short-range radio.

But a Maritime New Zealand inspector says he would have been happy going to sea in the fishing vessel, which sank a month after he inspected it.

Earlier witnesses suggested the vessel was leaky and poorly maintained, and the rescue boat had no motor but Peter Dryden says he checked all weathertight doors, the safety equipment and steering gear and if the Oyang 70 had not been seaworthy, he would have detained it in port.

He said that in his opinion the ship sank because the crew pulled too big a load of fish on board.

"Don't forget us" - families

A statement from the families of fishermen who died - many of them Indonesians - in the sinking was read by their lawyer Craig Tuck, who told the hearing that while 20 months has passed, they still do not know what caused the sinking.

In the statement the families expressed gratitude for the assistance they had received from ACC and asked the New Zealand Government and fishing company not to forget them.