Police, navy may help in search for fishermen

The Governor, which is missing in Fiordland with skipper Kevin Cosgrove and crewman Nirvana Drew Reynolds on board.
The Governor, which is missing in Fiordland with skipper Kevin Cosgrove and crewman Nirvana Drew Reynolds on board.

The police dive squad and New Zealand Navy may be called in to dive down at the wreckage of a boat that went missing off the coast of Fiordland.

The skipper of The Governor, 60-year-old Kevin Cosgrove, of Dobson, and crewman Nirvana Drew Reynolds, 16, of Blackball, were last heard from on Saturday about 11.30am.

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

Constable Chris Boulton, of Te Anau, with the life raft from missing fishing boat The Governor.
Constable Chris Boulton, of Te Anau, with the life raft from missing fishing boat The Governor.

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 of the vessel.

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.

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

The Search and Rescue Incident Management Team is currently consulting with the National Police Dive Squad and the NZ Navy regarding the ability to dive down to the wreckage or utilise a remote observation vehicle to view the wreckage, Fairley said.

Today the weather has closed in and it appears the forecast and tidal patterns show an opportunity to dive may be on Wednesday this week or after the coming weekend, she said.

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