Bad weather prevents Nina life-raft search

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 20:05 18/08/2013
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SEARCH GRID: A Google earth map showing the area a New Zealand plane is searching for the missing yacht Nina.

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Adverse weather has prevented a New Zealand search plane from flying to an area in the Tasman Sea after reports of a life-raft possibly from the missing American yacht Nina.

A privately funded Hamilton-based twin-engine aircraft landed at Norfolk Island late this afternoon as part of the search, but the weather has put off further searching until tomorrow.

The 85-year-old Nina left Opua, in the Bay of Islands, on May 29 bound for Newcastle, Australia, with seven people aboard.

It was last heard from on June 4, when conditions in the Tasman were very rough, but searching only began on June 25.

The official search was called off on July 4 with no trace of the Nina or its crew found.

But families in the United States have continued to fund private searches and, for the first time in this part of the world, used a crowd-sourcing tool to explore hundreds of satellite pictures.

The Tomnod system gets people to identify unusual objects they see in high-resolution satellite photos.

Most of the 56,000 photos show nothing more than waves, a grey sea and cloud - but one picture spotted by an undisclosed number of people, has a bright orange object in it.

Nina carried a bright orange life-raft.

The object is between Norfolk Island and New South Wales.

A Facebook page set up by crew families says they have raised enough money to hire a twin-engine Cessna F406 based in Hamilton, owned by Gisborne based Kiwi Air.

Tracking data shows it has been searching area southeast of Norfolk Island but in an update today, they say the aircraft is continuing to search areas around Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands.

On board Nina were skipper David Dyche III, 58, his wife, Rosemary, 60, son David Dyche IV, 17, Evi Nemeth, 73, Kyle Jackson, 27 and Danielle Wright, 18, all Americans. Also aboard was Matthew Wootton, 35. A leader of the British Greens, he refused on environmental grounds to fly.

On Friday the Wright family in Louisana held a press conference to urge more public help to fund the searches.

"We love her so much and we want her back," said mother Robin Wright.

"We need your help because we cant do this alone.

"The more we know about the crew that's with her, the more confident we are that they're catching fish, they're catching turtles and they're catching their rain water. They're survivors. They're trained to survive these circumstances."

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