Fundraiser helps search

William Kerry Blair
William Kerry Blair

There is still no sign of missing Marlborough man William Kerry Blair and his boat, after an investigation into the possible sighting of his boat showed no leads, police say.

Search co-ordinator Sergeant Bill Talbot, of Blenheim, said police had established that the sighting on Monday was not Kerry's missing boat.

In a statement released this afternoon, police said they are no closer to establishing what Mr Blair's intended destination was when he left Erie Bay in the Marlborough Sounds on Saturday afternoon.

Kerry Blair was last seen in this boat
Kerry Blair was last seen in this boat

Weather and sea conditions since his disapperance have been good and Mr Blair is considered a capable seaman, police said.

Mr Talbot said yesterday that with no indication of Mr Blair's intentions, the potential search area was enormous.

"We don't know if he has been motoring and if so what direction, or drifting, or whether the boat has gone down," he said.

"Right now it's a needle in a haystack."

The boat is equipped with a marine radio and alocator beacon, neither of which has been used.

Mr Talbot said police were continuing to appeal for sightings over marine radio and were asking all members of the public on or near the water to keep an eye out for the launch.

Early today, Kerry's family said they were sending out another private plane to continue with the search.

Son-in-law Keith Foster said this was the second plane they had sent up to perform an aerial search.

The first plane was funded by his neighbour, today's plane was funded by the generousity of people throughout the country, Mr Foster said.

The family started a profile on website yesterday - by 3pm this afternoon $5267 had been raised.

This was enough to send the plane up for a couple of hours, he said.

Kerry, as he was known, left Erie Bay, in Tory Channel in the Marlborough Sounds, in a 9-metre boat about 4pm on Saturday.

His boat was last seen near Cape Jackson about 5.30pm.

A plane with three search and rescue spotters onboard searched the coastline from Nelson to Westport on Tuesday but found no sign of the boat or Mr Blair.

Maritime Police told the Express yesterday he may have been attempting to cross Cook Strait to Wellington.

The search for a 55-year-old Marlborough man who has been missing at sea since Saturday will be like finding a needle in a haystack, police say.

His brother Peter Blair said Kerry, as he was known, had lived in a house in Erie Bay owned by a Christchurch man for the past few years. His job was looking after the boats that were kept at the property, including a 24m launch that was sometimes used for charter work.

The aluminum boat he was in on Saturday belonged to the Erie Bay property owner and was capable of going long distances.

Mr Blair said his brother's partner called police early on Sunday morning when he had not returned home.

However, a police spokeswoman said they understood Kerry Blair did not have a partner and did not tell anyone where he was going. Police were alerted to his disappearance about noon on Sunday. The spokeswoman said a signal from his cellphone had been picked up off the West Coast side of Farewell Spit on Sunday afternoon.

Police were treating the search as a missing person operation, she said.

They did not know whether Kerry Blair was with his phone when the signal was picked up, or whether he left and didn't want to be found, she said.

The boat was equipped with navigation equipment and a radio.

Peter Blair said his brother was an experienced boatie and a lifelong fisherman. He described him as an "easy going guy who cruised along" and was "happy enough".

The missing man's niece Georgia Bidois said family members were desperate to find him and were concerned for his wellbeing.

"Kerry is a very much loved father of three and grandfather of four," Miss Bidois said.

"This is extremely out of character for him."

The police spokeswoman said after searches by boat on Sunday and Monday, an aircraft was to be deployed yesterday.

The Marlborough harbour-master searched Queen Charlotte Sound on Sunday while the Nelson Coastguard searched Tasman Bay to the top of Farewell Spit, and the Abel Tasman coastline from Awaroa back to Nelson yesterday.

The aluminium boat, Erie, has a hard top painted white and a blue stripe along the side.

Anyone with information relevant to this investigation should call Blenheim Police Ph 03 578 5279.



The Marlborough Express