Lost fisherman helped in past searches

DEIRDRE MUSSEN, ALANA DIXON AND NICCI MCDOUGALL
Last updated 16:06 17/09/2012
The Governor
NOW WRECKED: The Governor, which is missing in Fiordland with skipper Kevin Cosgrove and crewman Nirvana Drew Reynolds on board.

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An experienced Greymouth fisherman missing after his boat sank in Fiordland on Saturday helped rescue people from a stricken fishing boat five months ago.

The West Coast township is reeling with news two local fishermen, skipper Kevin Cosgrove, 60, of Dobson, and crewman Nirvana Drew Reynolds, 16, of Blackball, were presumed drowned after their 11.58m fishing boat, The Governor, disappeared after its trawler net became snagged on Saturday morning.

West Coast Coastguard skipper Doug Griffin said Cosgrove was a well-known fisherman around Greymouth and had helped to rescue two people from a boat that caught fire off Greymouth in April.

He worked for Greymouth-based company Westfleet Seafoods, who declined to comment today about the incident.

Several of Cosgrove’s friends said he was a highly-respected popular person in the community and they were shocked over his disappearance.

"It's terribly sad," said one friend, who declined to be named.

"He’s a 'shirt-off-the-back' type of guy," another friend said, who also declined to be named.

According to his Facebook page, Cosgrove worked for Piners Fisheries for 20 years out of Greymouth as skipper of the vessel Debbie Jane, finishing in 2009.

He worked for a couple of years for Dobson Hotel Holdings Ltd before returning to fishing recently.

A daughter and a son were mentioned on his Facebook page.

Searchers were considering bringing in the police dive squad and New Zealand Navy to dive to the wreckage.

Cosgrove and Reynolds had told another boat their fishing net had become snagged north of the Milford South mouth.

Western Southland subarea commander Senior Sergeant Cynthia Fairley said an extensive search was carried out for the boat yesterday.

Police used a coatguard fixed-wing plane and a Southern Lakes Helicopter from Te Anau along with five fishing vessels to search for The Governor and its two crew.

The aircraft covered an area of approximately 1000 square kilometres from George Sound north to Yates Point. A debris trail failed to locate anything significant regarding the crew.

Items located included fish bins, hatches, pieces of wood and small plastic containers, Fairley said.

The fishing vessel Charisma has confirmed with the use of their sonar equipment that there is wreckage believed to be of the vessel approximately 2.5km offshore from Yates Point. This is believed to be the area where the Governor got into difficulty with its fishing nets, she said.

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The wreckage is currently resting on the sea bed approximately 50 metres below the surface.

The search has been scaled back to a limited search. There are vessels and aircraft that travel through the area and have been advised to contact police if anything significant is located, she said.

''At this stage it is disappointing that we have been unable to locate the fishermen. Considering the tide and wind at the time this tragic event occurred we do not believe that the men made it ashore and it is not expected that they survived,'' she said.

The incident is the fourth boating tragedy in Southland this year.

In January Shaun Bethune, 23, and Lindsay Cullen, 59, died after the recreational boat they were on, carrying five people, capsized in Foveaux Strait.

The remaining people on board were rescued by Rewai Karetai, who was one of nine members of an extended family on their annual trip to the Titi Islands when their boat also capsized in the strait.

Invercargill man Dallas Reedy, who spent 18 hours in the water, was the only survivor of the March tragedy.

Two months later, Bruce Gordon, of Te Anau, and Darren Allen, of Wairio, went missing while aboard their crayfishing boat KCee.

Yesterday, Fairley said fishing vessels went out to search for The Governor, which operated out of Greymouth, and about 4.50pm on Saturday found a diesel spill. A liferaft and a buoyancy ring were also found, about 9km offshore south-west of the sound, she said.

At the time, there was an easterly wind and there was also a large amount of freshwater coming from the sound, after heavy rainfall in the area.

Fairley said last night: "Our thoughts are with the families of the missing men at this tragic time."

Two helicopters equipped with night vision goggles and thermal imaging equipment were also involved in the search on Saturday night. They stopped searching about 8.30pm because of weather restricting their visibility.

There were southeasterly winds of about 25 knots and swells of one to two metres on Saturday, but conditions were clearer yesterday.

Southern Lakes Helicopters pilot Chris Green, who was involved in the search on Saturday night, said yesterday conditions at the time of the search were reasonably good apart from a strong southeasterly breeze blowing over from out of Milford, which pushed a thin layer of haze over the search area.

The haze was the reason the helicopter search was called off, as it was too unsafe to fly low in those conditions, he said.

The search area was about eight kilometres square, just off Briggs Rocks down to just south of Transit Beach, he said.

One of the fishing vessels involved on Saturday found the liferaft, along with other debris including fish tubs and a chilly bin, he said.

"There was quite a large drift, and with the offshore wind coming out of Milford, it is very unlikely anybody would have been able to swim to shore, because it would be against probably a 25-knot southeasterly coming offshore".

Greymouth District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said yesterday the community was hanging on to hope the two men would be found safe.

"We're hoping they can find them. As each hour goes by it gets tougher and tougher.

"We know the odds, especially in rough seas, are very much against these people but sometimes it turns out to be good news and we hope that's the situation this time."

- The Southland Times

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