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'Grave concerns' for seven on missing schooner

Published: 3:45PM Thursday June 27, 2013 Source: ONE News

  • Defence Force Orion (Source: NZDF)
    Defence Force Orion - Source: NZDF

New Zealand's Rescue Coordination Centre holds grave concerns for the seven crew of a historic American schooner missing en route from Opua in the Bay of Islands to Newcastle, Australia.

The 21-metre vessel Nina built in 1928, left Opua on May 29 and has not been heard from since June 4, when the vessel was about 370 nautical miles west-north west of Cape Reinga.

There are seven people on board - six Americans (three men aged 17, 28 and 58, and three women aged 18, 60 and 73) and a British man aged 35.

The vessel is equipped with a satellite phone, a spot beacon which allows regular tracking signals to be sent manually, and an emergency beacon. The emergency beacon has not been activated.

After concerns were raised by family and friends, the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) instigated a communications search on June 14 using a range of communications methods to broadcast alerts to the vessel and others in the area.

No sign of the vessel has been reported by any other vessel in the area since June 4.

RCCNZ search and rescue mission coordinator Kevin Banaghan said a RNZAF Orion had completed two extensive searches.

On Tuesday, June 25, a search area of 160,000 square nautical miles was covered, to the immediate north-north east of New Zealand, based on the vessel being disabled and drifting.

Yesterday, June 26, a search was completed of 324,000 square nautical miles between northern New Zealand and the Australian coast, based on the vessel suffering damage but continuing to make progress towards Australia.

"Unfortunately, no sign of the vessel has been found," Mr Banaghan said.

"Our records show that conditions at the last known position for the vessel, on 4 June, were very rough, with winds of 80kmh, gusting to 110kmh, and swells of up to 8m. We do hold grave concerns for the Nina and her crew but remain hopeful of a positive outcome."

RCCNZ is liaising with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and will continue to review search options, Mr Branaghan said.