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Numerous deaths in boating tragedy NW of Auckland

Police have confirmed multiple fatalities in a boating accident in the Kaipara Harbour.

A statement from police said “a number of people” were dead after a boat got into difficulty in the harbour on Saturday afternoon.

It has been reported the boat involved in the tragedy was Francie, a 12-metre fishing carter which can carry a maximum 20 passengers and two crew.

At this stage police were unable to confirm the death toll.

“At least six other people have been rescued and are receiving medical treatment,” the statement read.

Four aircraft continue to search for people in the water; three helicopters and a plane.

Police have also appealed for boaties and pilots of aircraft not involved in the search to “steer clear” of the area.

“Emergency services require a safe working space around South Head,” police said.

An online booking service for Francie states: “Enjoy a days fishing for any of the predominant Kaipara fish species – kawawai, snapper and gurnard and in season trevally, maumau and kingfish”.

Daily boat hire costs range from $700-$800.

In 2012 the boat was involved in the rescue of a ketch which had been adrift after its sails blew out and encountered engine problems.

A story on the Kaipara Lifestyler quoted then Francie skipper Rod Bridge as saying: “Another half an hour and that would have been it – they would have foundered in heavy seas on the bar.”

A rescue chopper and Coastguard were also involved in the 2012 water rescue.

Today, emergency services were first alerted just after 3.30pm to a call about a vessel being overdue off South Head.

Earlier, a spokeswoman for the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter said they had been alerted to an incident which has left “multiple people in the water”.

Lifeguards confirmed there were 11 people in the water after a boat flipped over.

A statement from police said they were co-ordinating a search and rescue operation in Kaipara Harbour with Coastguard.

The Muriwai Surf Lifesaving Club was being used as a base for the emergency operation.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission confirmed on Saturday night that it had opened an investigation into what it described as a “marine accident”.

“It is tracking the continuing search and rescue operation, and deploying two investigators to the scene who are expected to arrive in the morning,” it said in a statement.

“The Commission’s inquiry will seek to explain the circumstances and causes of the accident, with a view to helping prevent similar accidents in the future. The Commission is unable to confirm further details of this afternoon’s events while the search and rescue operation continues.”

– NZ Herald has ongoing updates – CLICK HERE to see the latest on this developing story…


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