Boat Collides With Whale in New Zealand; 5 People Dead, 3 Missing as Vessel Capsizes Near Kaikoura

Five people are dead and three are missing after a boat with 11 people onboard collided with a whale and capsized near the South Island town of Kaikoura in New Zealand. The police dive squad recovered the bodies.

Mayor Chris Mackle of Kaikoura said there were 11 people on the boat, including a group of women over the age of 50 and sea conditions were calm when the incident happened. He believes a log was not likely to be the cause of the capsize because it would punch a hole in the vessel, rather than capsize it.

The boat was a fishing charter vessel. Mackle said the passengers would likely have been fishing for cod, grouper and other species. He highlighted that the water was "bloody cold" and the outcome for anybody who had fallen overboard was not likely to be good.

Helicopters circle the area where the boat capsized after colliding with a whale. Newstimes

The police said the boat collided with something, but couldn't comment whether it was a whale. They are speaking to a number of people to determine what actually happened. The police divers were at the scene with local boats and divers helping in the rescue operation.

Local media reports said the mood in the town was sombre as they awaited more news of those who were missing. Vanessa Chapman, a local resident, said she and a group of friends had watched the rescue efforts unfold from Goose Bay, near Kaikoura.

She revealed that she saw a person sitting atop an overturned boat waving their arms. Three rescue helicopters circled over the area before the divers jumped out. Chapman said the person atop the boat was rescued and a second person was pulled out from the water.

Mackle said whales are resident and had been seen in the area. He believes the whale had surfaced from beneath and flipped the boat in the process. The mayor added that it was a tragic event that impacted many lives. Moreover, Kaikoura is a popular whale-watching destination. Seafloor in the area drops away precipitously from the coast, making for deep waters close to the shore.