Answers sought over Nina search
Parents of a teenager who was among seven people on board the classic American yacht Nina that disappeared in the Tasman Sea seven months ago have failed to get New Zealand authorities to resume the search.
However, the Rescue Co-ordination Centre (RCCNZ) in Wellington has ordered an independent review of its search.
In addition, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee, who met the family yesterday in Wellington, is seeking answers over what happened.
The 85-year-old schooner sailed from Opua on May 29, bound for Newcastle, Australia. It was last heard from on June 4 during a storm in the Tasman Sea.
A massive New Zealand-led search found nothing and was called off, but families of the missing continue to look.
The parents of crew member Danielle Wright, 18, Ricky and Robin Wright, of Louisiana, say they have spent US$500,000 (NZ$620,000) of their own money running private searches out of Norfolk Island, Lord Howe Island and Queensland.
An "Operation Nina" site on Facebook said today that the Wrights had met the RCCNZ and Brownlee yesterday.
It said they had met with the "independent reviewer of the case ... but further action from RCCNZ still seems unlikely".
A RCCNZ spokesman confirmed it and a former official of the Australian Emergency Response Division "who is carrying out an independent review of the Nina search operation for the director of Maritime New Zealand" had met the Wrights.
"Such reviews are carried out occasionally following major operations," the spokesman said.
The reviewer was not named but the spokesman said the review would be made available publicly when completed. No time frame is set in the review.
A spokesman for Brownlee confirmed the meeting took place.
"The Wrights asked some specific questions which officials have undertaken to make enquiries on and provide answers to," he said.
The Wrights were in Queensland this month looking for a piece of wood with the letters "ina" on it. They said a fisherman had advised he had seen it at Waddy Pt on Fraser Island, 240 kilometres north of Brisbane. They did not find it and conceded later the broken wood could have come from a sign with the words "China" or "marina" on it.
They also appealed to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to put out a daily alert to merchant vessels and aircraft to be on the lookout for the Nina. The authority has declined.
The Wrights say they know of seven boats that have drifted from around Norfolk Island to Australia's eastern coastline.
Nina's fate is disputed in sailing circles.
Critics say it would have failed the standard "Cat-1" inspection Maritime New Zealand imposes on all locally flagged vessels leaving the country. Foreign-flagged boats are not required to undergo inspection.
The boat sailed despite bad weather warnings.
Nina had a large amount of sail - although its last message said it was under bare masts in a storm - but critics say it might have become "hogged" with age, meaning the centre or keel bent upward. Its sheer lines indicated the yacht's back may have been broken.
- © Fairfax NZ News