NOS News•today, 08:06
Five people were killed in a suspected collision with a whale in New Zealand when their boat capsized. Six other people on board were rescued.
The accident happened this morning local time off the coast of the South Island town of Kaikōura. Kaikōura Mayor Craig Mackle confirmed to the AP news agency that 11 people were on board the boat at the time of the accident and that six of them were safely returned to shore.
According to Mackle, it is a fishing boat and the passengers were probably fishing for cod, grouper and other fish species. But according to New Zealand media, it would be a group of bird watchers.
It’s always on your mind that it could happen
Mackle tells AP that the water was “damn cold” and it doesn’t look good for anyone knocked overboard.
According to survivors, the water was very calm just before the accident. A whale is believed to have surfaced under the boat and knocked it over. Sperm whales and also some humpback whales were known to be in the bay. It is unknown which whale species collided with the boat.
Police say it looks like the boat collided with something, but can’t say if it’s a whale, the New Zealand Herald reports. The definitive cause of the accident has yet to be determined.
Because there are many whales in the waters off Kaikōura, Mayor Mackle already took the risk of accidents into account. “It’s always in your head that it could happen,” he told AP.
An eyewitness tells a local news site that she and a group of friends had seen the rescue efforts from Goose Bay, near Kaikōura. They saw a woman sitting on a capsized boat, waving her arms. According to the eyewitness, there were three helicopters at the boat and two divers went into the water.
Kaikōura is a popular destination for whale watching because the sea is already deep near the coast. Companies offer boat trips and helicopter tours so tourists can get up close to whales, dolphins and other marine life.