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Rose-Noelle shipwreck survivor dies

Published: 12:04PM Monday March 24, 2014 Source: ONE News

One of the four men who survived four months at sea following the capsizing of the Rose-Noelle has died.

Karen Hofman, the wife of Phillip Hofman, told ONE News her husband died yesterday following an illness. He was 73-years-old.

Phillip Hofman, captain John Glennie, Rick Hellreigel and Jim Nalepka survived adrift on the wreckage of the Rose-Noelle for 119 days after the trimaran capsized off the coast of New Zealand in 1989.

The men had been heading to Tonga, but just three days into the trip a huge wave flipped the yacht, which had been Mr Glennie's home, upside down.

The men managed to huddle into a small space inside the wreck, and survived on fish they caught, and rationed food, including mouldy rice, which Mr Glennie had dived into the submerged cabin to find. They also drank water from a catchment system they made.

The men and the wreckage washed ashore on a remote part of Great Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf.

Their story had originally been met with suspicion, with Phil Hofman found clean shaven, and the others with trimmed beards and clean clothes and no pressure-point or salt sores. There were also questions raised about why the wreck hadn't drifted towards South America as expected.

The Maritime Transport Division of the Ministry of Transport investigated their story, and discovered convincing evidence, such as marine growth on the boat's topside.

Phillip Hofman told media at the time that "all those who think it's a hoax are bloody idiots." Asked if there was any conclusive evidence, he said: "Yeah, the fact that I know we did it."

After the men washed ashore, they found a vacant bach, where they had showered, changed into clean clothes and slept before making contact with a man in a nearby house.

A station was set-up in Lower Hutt to receive emergency beacon signals, after it was revealed that the signal from the EPIRB locator beacon they set off had not been picked up by searching aircraft.

Mr Hellreigel died of a brain tumour two years after coming ashore.