15 Aug 2009

Calls from public about boat mayday

4:12 pm on 15 August 2009

Several members of the public have contacted search and rescue officials saying they possibly recognise the voice on a mayday call that sparked a huge rescue effort off the Northland coast.

The call, which has been broadcast by various media, is being investigated as a possible hoax.

Search and Rescue incident controller in Northland, Neil Pennington, says he hasn't ruled out the possibility it was a genuine distress call and a further search may be carried out if new information comes to light.

The call, at 1.20am on Friday, said the East Coaster, with four people on board, was taking on water near the Hen and Chicken Islands.

Contact was then lost and a Coastguard boat and navy vessel began a search, joined about 9am by a helicopter and a plane, which covered an area of about 150 square nautical miles.

The Search and Rescue Coordination Centre suspended the search about 2pm on Friday and there has been no contact with the boat since the initial mayday call.