Missing yacht debris washes ashore

MISSING: Andre Kinzler disappeared with two others on his yacht Munetra.
MISSING: Andre Kinzler disappeared with two others on his yacht Munetra.

Debris from a yacht missing off New Zealand's south coast for two weeks with three people on board has been found.

Southland area commander Inspector Lane Todd said a liferaft and squab belonging to the Munetra were washed up during the past few days.

The liferaft was found by fishermen on the southern end of Stewart Island and the squab was found along the the coast near Colac Bay.

NEW EVIDENCE: The yacht Munetra went missing in April.
NEW EVIDENCE: The yacht Munetra went missing in April.

However, the three people on board the yacht are still missing.

The 7.5-metre Munetra set sail from Bluff on April 16 and was due back in port on April 22.

There had been no trace of the boat or 33-year-old German skipper Andre Kinzler and German tourists Lea Tietz and Veronika Steudler, both 19, since it left Bluff for Preservation Inlet in Fiordland.

Fishermen found the Munetra's liferaft washed up at Flour Cask Bay, on the southern end of Stewart Island, late on Friday night.

The raft was taken to Bluff, where police inquiries verified it was from the Munetra, Todd said.

Police have advised the families of the three missing people that the liferaft had been found.

Bluff Marine Radio operator Meri Leask said the fishermen had done a marvellous job spotting the liferaft.

Wind and currents would have caused the debris to drift, Leask said.

Last week, Kinzler's boss and Central Southland farmer Jim Cooper said the skipper had a liferaft with him, which was almost bigger than the boat, as well as a kayak tied to the side.

In addition to the liferaft, a squab, also identified as belonging to the Munetra, was found at Pahia on Monday afternoon in an area on the south coast beyond Colac Bay.

It was found by a resident who contacted police.

Yesterday, police and about 15 LandSAR volunteers scoured an area of the South Island's southern coastline from Colac Bay to Rowellanburn, west of Tuatapere, to search for any further signs of the missing yacht.

The search began at low tide at 1pm and was conducted on foot and on four-wheel motorbikes, Todd said.

Nothing of significance was found in yesterday's search.

Members of Tietz and Steudler's families arrived in Invercargill at the weekend and police have kept the families of the three people missing on the Munetra fully briefed of the latest developments, he said.

The two teens were on a gap year in New Zealand and Kinzler was working on a dairy farm in Central Southland.

Police would like to extend their thanks to the fishermen and the Pahia resident who contacted police after finding the items.

The Munetra left Bluff headed for Preservation Inlet in Fiordland

on April 16, but had not been seen or heard from since.

A large-scale search involving police, the air force, Southern Lakes Helicopters and the coastguard air-patrol had put in three full days of searching in the area where the missing yacht was expected to be.

The operation was changed to a "limited continuous search phase". That meant there would be no further active searching for the Munetra but any new information surrounding relevant tidal patterns, current movements and debris could result in future searches.

People aboard fishing vessels were asked to keep an eye out for any sign of the yacht.

The Southland Times