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Special Investigators

Ep 12 - Ferry Grounding/R22 Helicopter

On a bright but windy day in the Bay of Islands, 58 passengers and crew boarded a Fuller's sightseeing ferry and set off for the Hole in the Rock. They could hardly have imagined that before long they would be drifting helplessly towards the rocky shore under the Cape Brett lighthouse.

It was a trip the crew did twice a day, seven days a week.  But on this particular outing, a combination of weather conditions and engine failure transformed a gentle scenic tour into a life-threatening drama.

The captain had already pronounced the sea conditions too rough to make the passage through the famous Hole in the Rock. Then, on the way back towards Paihia, disaster struck.

As the ferry entered a narrow inlet to get a better view of the lighthouse, one engine failed. With the prevailing wind pushing him towards shore, the captain sent out a distress call, requesting assistance from nearby vessels. The response was swift, and a tow rope was thrown aboard the stricken boat.  But the ferry's fate is sealed when the rope breaks, and other boats could only watch helplessly as the crippled ferry was pushed onto the rocks.

The passengers, some with young children, are assisted by the crew to make a hazardous crossing from the ferry onto the rocks. From there, everyone can finally be airlifted to safety.

Maritime New Zealand investigators Ian Howden and Andrew Hayton must not only get to the bottom of how such a routine outing could have gone so badly wrong, they must also ask how the crew responded. Were the proper safety procedures in place, and were they followed?

Meanwhile, Civil Aviation Investigator Tom McCready is in a race against time to find out why a Robinson R22 helicopter appears to have lost a rotor blade in mid air. It seems this may not be an isolated incident, and Tom must solve the mystery before it happens again.