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Boat flip on harbour bar highlights risks

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 9/12/2016

Four men who survived when their boat flipped while crossing the sand bar at Port Waikato are being praised for wearing lifejackets but the skipper didn't call Coastguard.

A six-metre powered vessel flipped and was swamped while attempting to head out across the bar between 9am and 10am on Friday, Waikato Regional Council says.

The four men on board were wearing lifejackets and are safe but the boat is missing.

Waikato Regional Council maritime services team leader Richard Barnett said the skipper had not alerted Coastguard to the crossing.

Recommended practice is to alert Coastguard beforehand and then confirm afterwards that the craft has got across safely. If the confirmation call is not made Coastguard knows there's a potential problem.

"While crossing the bar today, the vessel was swamped by waves and all four men ended up in the water. They tied themselves together and tried to raise the alarm with flares. But this didn't work. Eventually they made it to shore after about 45 minutes in the water," he said.

"Good on the men for wearing lifejackets but the time they spent in the water highlights why Coastguard should be alerted before crossings," he said.

Eight men died and three survived when the Francie, a launch used for fishing charters, capsized while trying to cross the bar at the entrance of the Kaipara Harbour on November 26.

An investigation into the tragedy is continuing. The vessel skipper did radio the Coastguard of his intention of cross the harbour bar and a search was launched when he didn't call in as expected. The vessel had lifejackets but it's not clear if they were being worn.

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