Ricky Wilson / Stuff
Two police cars guard a boathouse just off Little Huia Beach following a call from two rescue helicopters and an ambulance.
Three people died following a shipping incident in the port of Manukau on Saturday afternoon.
A police spokeswoman said emergency services were told around 4:40 p.m. that a boat with four people on board had overturned at Manukau Heads, near the bar.
“Police, along with the Westpac Rescue Helicopter, Maritime NZ, Surf Lifesaving NZ, Coastguard and St John Ambulance responded to the incident,” she said.
“All four people were found in the water but unfortunately three of them died. The fourth person was taken to hospital in serious condition.
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“Investigations into the circumstances of the incident are ongoing.”
A spokeswoman for St John’s said two Westpac helicopters and an ambulance were present.
“We treated and transported a patient (…) and they were airlifted to Auckland hospital by helicopter,” the spokesperson confirmed.
Two police cars could be seen parked outside a boathouse just off Little Huia Beach at 6:30 p.m.
Passers-by could see white sheets through a partially open hangar door, which appeared to cover bodies.
Water Safety NZ General Manager Daniel Gerrard is familiar with the Manukau Heads bar and said it is known to be a very difficult area to navigate.
“It’s a massive influx of water into a fairly large port,” he said.
He said large surges could affect the waters not only at the bar, but around the bar as well.
“This is one of those situations where you really hope everyone was wearing a life jacket.
“If you are in a boat shorter than six meters, you have to put on an appropriate life jacket. “
Gerrard said the deaths meant that at least five people had died in the port of Manukau in the past eight days.
Police recovered a body last Saturday after being informed early in the morning of a disappearance of a diver near Cornwallis beach, and on Sunday Kafoa Hala Latu died in a paddling accident in the port of Manukau . He had previously worked as a lifeguard and received an award from the police for rescuing a drowning man.
Latu was an avid rugby player, who secured a contract for the Manly Sea Eagles in Sydney before being offered to move to the United States to play NFL football with the San Francisco 49ers, but a knee injury took end to Latu’s dreams in the NFL.
Manukau Heads has a long history of tragic boating accidents.
In January 2020, one person died and two others were hospitalized after a similar boating incident off Manukau Heads and in September of the previous year Joe Tetou Williams, 56, died on a boat trip with two other people when it capsized in the port near Huia.
The Manukau Heads are also the site of New Zealand’s worst maritime disaster.
Relying on obsolete port maps, the British Navy warship Orpheus failed to see that the Manukau Heads sandbank had shifted and the ship ran aground in heavy swells in 1863, resulting in the deaths of 189 naval officers, sailors and Royal Marines on board.