Five people died after a small charter boat capsized off New Zealand Saturday morning after colliding with a whale.
Kaikura is the South Island town where the incident occurred.
While authorities continue to investigate the cause of the accident, six other people on the boat were rescued.
All survivors have been assessed to be stable at a local health center, although one has been transferred to a Christchurch hospital for further evaluation.
The bodies of those who died had been recovered by police divers, but they had not yet notified the victims’ relatives and could not yet identify them publicly.
“Our thoughts are with everyone involved, including the victims and their families, their local communities, and emergency services personnel,” he said.
The Associated Press reported that the waters were calm at the time of the accident, so a whale was assumed to have surfaced.
Rescue efforts had been helped by the locals after the collision, but they were concerned about the fate of those who fell overboard due to the cold water.
The region is a popular whale-watching destination for sperm and humpback whales.
“It always plays on your mind that it could happen,” he said, noting there had been no previous incidents of such accidents.
New Zealand news outlet Stuff reported that the passengers were bird enthusiasts on board the boat, which Mackle described as a charter vessel typically used for fishing excursions.
According to Vanessa Chapman, who watched the rescue efforts near Goose Bay, a local listed on Stuff a person sitting on top of an overturned boat after the collision waving their arms.
- Five people died off New Zealand after a boat possibly collided with a whale NPR
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- Five dead after boat capsizes off New Zealand coast Reuters