11 Jan 2013

Close call for Otago boaties

4:50 pm on 11 January 2013

Four Otago men rescued after their boat sank made a distress call with only seconds to spare.

Rescue helicopters plucked the group out of the sea on Friday morning cold but unharmed, about 20km offshore from Taieri Mouth, a popular holiday spot just south of Dunedin.

Police say the group had been heading out fishing when a wave tore a hole in the hull.

The local men, aged between 39 and 58, put out a radio alert saying their six-metre-long fibreglass and wood boat was 20km from the mouth of the Taieri River and going down fast.

The group were in the water for more than 30 minutes before being picked up by rescue helicopters about 11.35am.

Two helicopters and two fishing boats found the vessel mostly submerged with just the bow showing. The boat has since sunk.

Maritime New Zealand search and rescue coordinator Chris Henshaw says the men did everything right - but it was a close call.

"It went down very quick. Speaking to the helicopter pilot afterwards, the boat went down in just over a minute.

"The crew were literally pulling the skipper off the radio as he was making his mayday call to get off the boat as it was going down."

Mr Henshaw says all were wearing good lifejackets, had fired a flare and did everything right.

However, he says if they had not made the distress call, no-one would have known they were in trouble for hours.

Senior Sergeant Mel Aitken says the water rescue service responded very quickly, within minutes of the mayday call.