Two dead after boat capsizes off Auckland

TRAGIC JOURNEY: The Coastguard vessel that responded to drowning.
TRAGIC JOURNEY: The Coastguard vessel that responded to drowning.

Two men who drowned when their small boat capsized off the coast of Auckland were not wearing life jackets and failed to heed weather warnings.

The group of seven Pacific Island men, aged from mid-twenties to fifties, had just set out for a day off fishing, west of Waiheke Island, when one of the men fell ill.

Duty Sergeant John Saunders, of the police maritime unit, said the man rocked the boat as he went to vomit over the side.

"He was feeling ill, moved towards the back of the boat. This had the effect of lowering the stern."

A wave rushed over the boat and shortly afterwards the men were separated and struggled to stay afloat.

Two people on a nearby boat raised the alarm about 10am and dragged some of the men from the water.

But by the time the Coastguard got to the last of the fishermen, the two men were floating unconscious in the water.

Efforts to revive them failed.

None of the men were wearing life jackets and the weather conditions were rough.

Saunders said the fisherman should not have been in such a small boat in the windy weather conditions.

"It's a tragedy that people can't put on the radio and listen to the forecast," he said.

"The information is out there, it just has to be listened to and acted upon. That could have saved [them]."

Four of the survivors left Mechanics Bay marina, some of them wrapped in towels, at 1.30pm today.

The fifth survivor had been earlier taken to Auckland Hospital suffering mild hypothermia.

A hearse picked up the two bodies.

Just metres away, children and their parents were enjoying the Coastguard's open day.

Coastguard northern region chief executive David Tommas said the Coastguard volunteers were offered grief counselling.

"The outcome was not great but we brought five people back safely.

"My main disappointment is for the family of the victims, but the message to the public - as repeated before - is listen to the weather."

The MetService had a strong wind warning in place for the area the boat flipped, which was being buffeted by strong 23 knot westerlies.

The incident has been referred to the coroner and Maritime NZ plan to carry out their own investigation.

Auckland Now