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Deaths prompt plea

GILL ALCOCK AND MARIKA HILL
Last updated 05:00 21/11/2012
Crusoe Island
George Gardner

BOATING TRAGEDY: The two drowned fishermen had not been wearing lifejackets and capsized off Crusoe Island, the small islet off Park Point pictured left, with Motuihe behind and Rangitoto to the right.

Robb Henry
Waiheke Coastguard crew chief Robb Henry says checking the weather forecast and wearing lifejackets can avert a tragedy.

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"Check the weather and wear your lifejackets."

That's the message from Waiheke Coastguard crew chief Robb Henry after a boating accident off Crusoe Island near Park Point on Sunday morning left two men dead.

Waiheke Coastguard wasn't involved in the incident because it wasn't on duty but Mr Henry says if the fishermen had followed basic maritime rules they may all have survived.

The two dead fishermen weren't wearing lifejackets and ventured out in a 4.9-metre aluminium boat overloaded with seven people.

Five of the seven men were pulled from the water alive but two died, bringing the annual drowning toll to 84.

Mr Henry says they should have checked the weather reports which warned of strong winds and 2m swells where the boat flipped.

"Plus they should all have been wearing lifejackets."

He says Howick Rescue One was on duty and was at Matiatia when the call came through. Two other Coastguard vessels, the Lion Federation and North Shore Rescue, were close by and the Westpac rescue helicopter was also on the scene to help.

The group of Pacific Island men, aged from their mid-20s to 50s, had just set out for a day's fishing, when one of the men fell ill and the boat flipped as he moved across the boat to vomit.

The men were separated once in the water. A nearby recreational boat called the Coastguard and retrieved some of them.

The two remaining men were floating unconscious in the water by the time they were found.

Paramedics spent 20 minutes trying to revive one of them.

The five survivors and two bodies were taken back to the Coastguard Auckland Marine Rescue Centre at Mechanics Bay.

Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Matt Claridge says boaties are obliged under maritime law to have lifejackets on board which must be worn in rough conditions.

"I get really frustrated when I hear of more drownings when lifejackets are not worn.

"Lifejackets will help you out when you hit the water. It was just not worth taking the risk of not wearing lifejackets or overloading a boat," he says.

Auckland Coastguard also rescued three men without lifejackets who were found clinging to a buoy on Friday night.

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