Hugs, tears as sailors arrive at port

The 45 survivors from the Oyang 70 sinking have been taken to a secret location where they will be interviewed about the events, police say.

The three dead seamen have been identified, but their names not released.

There were tearful scenes at Lyttelton this morning when 45 survivors of a sunken fishing trawler arrived on land.

The Oyang 70 sank about 400 nautical miles (750 kilometres) off Dunedin early on Wednesday. Three bodies were recovered and two Indonesians and the South Korean captain, Shin Hyeon Gi, 42, were still missing yesterday, presumed drowned.

The rescue ship, Amaltal Atlantis, a fishing trawler owned by Talley's, docked at Lyttelton Port near Christchurch around 4.50am this morning.

"The three crew from the Oyang 70 whose bodies were recovered were formally identified late this morning and steps to inform their next of kin have begun." said Detective Senior Sergeant Rae.

"Their names until not be released until their next of kin have been advised.

"Though we are beginning to establish what happened we are still a long way from confirming the circumstances of the deaths and disappearances of the six crew," he said.

Investigators from the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) were on board the Atlantis speaking to senior crew this morning. Police and TAIC officials will interview the survivors in the coming days.

The survivors have been given clothes, toiletries and other personal items arranged through the shipping agent for the owners.

This morning the crew have been allowed to cleanup and rest though three members were involved in identifying their deceased shipmates.

Addressing media, Talley's Nelson branch chief executive Tony Hazlett said the survivors of the Korean ship Oyang 70 were upset by their ordeal, but thankful to be safe.

He said the Atlantis crew only realised the significance of their rescue when they watched television footage of their arrival as they steamed into Lyttelton this morning.

Hazlett said the mayday came at 4.30am on Wednesday and it took the Atlantis 45 minutes to get to the spot in the Southern Ocean where the Oyang 70 had sunk.

By that time the survivors were in liferafts, grouped together, and the Atlantis crew began the dangerous job of transferring them aboard in 1m to 1.5m swells. Some of the Oyang crew were showing signs of hypothermia, and were wrapped in blankets and rubbed down.

Hazlett said the two crews had developed a strong bond during the return voyage, and the Oyang sailors had hugged their rescuers as they left them at Lyttelton.

"I saw 45 very happy people get off the boat today. There was lots of hugging, lots of tears. They were very thankful," Hazlett said.

"Of course they're upset at the loss of their colleagues. But the reality is 45 very happy people got off this boat. They were delighted."

The Amaltal Atlantis will return to sea this afternoon.

"Our crew are good. They're eager to get back to sea and pretty proud of what they've done."

On arrival, the three bodies of the deceased were carried in stretchers from the Amaltal Atlantis onto the wharf where a religious ceremony involving a local mullah Mohammed Alayan and the Mission of Seafarers was held.

The Maori delegation Ngati Wheke hapu also performed a powhiri.

"The crew appreciated it. It was a blessing on the boat," Hazlett said.

The bodies were taken to Christchurch Hospital where post mortems would be completed today.

A bus picked up the crew before travelling towards the Lyttelton Port tunnel, which was then closed to stop media following.

Three of the injured fishermen were taken to Christchurch Hospital by ambulance. One man had broken his middle finger, another had torn a ligament in his hand and the third man needed an X-ray on his arm.

Hyun Gwan Choi, owner of Southern Storm Fishing, thanked the crew of the Amaltal Atlantis, and others who took part in the rescue. He said another ship, Oyang 77, would spend the next two days searching for the three missing crew members. The sunken trawler was owned by the Sajo Oyang Corporation, of Seoul, and chartered by Christchurch company Southern Storm Fishing.

The survivors are expected to remain in Christchurch over the weekend and return home early next week.

The Press