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Search continues in Kaipara capsize

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 28/11/2016
William McNatty, the boat's skipper. © NZ Police William McNatty, the boat's skipper.

Searchers on land and in the air are continuing to look for the last of the 11 men who were on the charter fishing vessel when it capsized in Kaipara Harbour in treacherous conditions.

Seven bodies have been recovered, including that of Francie skipper Bill McNatty, but one man is still missing, presumed dead, after the incident on Saturday.

Police are using four-wheel-drive vehicles to comb the shoreline between Muriwai and South Head north of Auckland on Monday.

They say items that are thought to have washed ashore from the Francie, a 12-metre steel launch, have been retrieved as part of the investigation into the tragedy.

The police Eagle helicopter is carrying out aerial searches of a large area covering many square kilometres.

Inspector Mark Fergus says the Francie hasn't been found and police, in consultation with their specialist maritime staff, are considering options that could assist with the search.

"We are in regular contact with the family of the missing man," he said.

"They are coping as well as can be expected but are understandably wanting to get their loved one home."

Insp Fergus said police family liaison officers continued to work closely with the family and friends of those who had died, as well as the survivors.

Police are also investigating on behalf of the coroner.

"We will be assessing whether there is any culpability," Insp Fergus said.

Two investigators from the Transport Accident Investigation Commission are working on the case.

The commission's role is to determine the circumstances and causes of incidents with a view to avoiding similar occurrences.

The 10 clients on the fishing charter were a group of men of Pacific Islands descent living in Auckland.

The boat capsized in waves of up to four metres with one man making it back to shore. A rescue helicopter winched two others to safety from the water.

The Francie had left at 6.30am on Saturday and the group fished in the inner harbour before crossing the Kaipara Bar at about midday.

The skipper advised the Coastguard the vessel was heading back over the bar but did not check in an hour later as indicated.

Fruitless attempts were made to contact the vessel before a search was launched.

Kaipara Cruising Club committee member Mark Tuuta said Mr McNatty was being mourned by club members.

"We're all gutted," he told NZ Newswire.

"He was up there with one of the best. He just made a mistake."

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