One dead, sailor rescued by cruise ship from stricken Fiji yacht

Tuesday, September 26, 2023


One person has died during an incident involving a New Zealand-flagged yacht off Fiji, says Maritime New Zealand’s Rescue Coordination Centre.

There were three people on-board when the vessel encountered difficulty.

One survivor was picked up by the Fijian Navy vessel Savenaca this afternoon, while the other was earlier transferred to the cruise ship, Pacific Explorer where they received medical treatment.

Both the survivors are being taken to Fiji, as has the body of the dead person. Consular services have been notified.

The crew were offloaded around 12 hours after sending a mayday signal in the waters south of Fiji last night.

The small yacht was first intercepted by P&O cruise ship the Pacific Explorer at 1am this morning.

The 2000-passenger pleasure cruiser was repositioning from Auckland to Suva in the Fijian islands when it diverted to the distress signal.

The New Zealand-flagged sailing vessel Second Life appeared to have a broken sail and the crew required medical assistance.

One crew member was winched aboard the cruise ship, while two others remained onboard, unable to be moved.

Due to rough weather, the cruise ship was unable to launch small tenders, the Pacific Explorer ship remaining at a safe distance and waiting for the Fijian navy to conduct a recovery operation for the sailing ship.

RFNS patrol boat Savenaca intercepted the immobilised yacht after midday. Republic of Fiji Navy (RFN) sailors could be seen boarding the 12-metre yacht via dirigible and removing bags from the craft.

Maritime New Zealand’s Rescue Coordination Centre (RCCNZ) confirmed that two survivors were recovered from the vessel, while “sadly one person has died as a result of an incident involving a yacht off Fiji yesterday evening”.

RFN picked up the remaining survivor this afternoon, in addition to the crew member who was winched onto the Pacific Explorer.

“This was a challenging search and rescue operation in tough conditions,” said a spokesperson for RCCNZ. “Maritime NZ’s Rescue Coordination Centre wants to acknowledge the work of the Rescue Coordination Centre, Fiji in leading coordination of the rescue efforts.”

Both the survivors are being taken to Fiji, as is the body of the deceased. New Zealand Police and consular services have been notified.

Cruise passengers reported that the Pacific Explorer continued on its course to Fiji at around 2pm local time.

A second response vessel in the area, The Beast, a privately-owned vessel belonging to Sir Michael Hill, also diverted to assist shortly after midday.

A spokeswoman for Carnival Australia, the parent company of cruise operator P&O, said the Pacific Explorer had been first to respond to a call for assistance via the New Zealand Rescue Co-ordination Centre.

“We’d like to take this opportunity to thank our crew, led by Captain Alan Nixon, for their immense efforts in very poor conditions, as well as our guests onboard for their understanding,” they said.

Owing to the poor conditions, the rescue of remaining crew by the cruise line was not possible, but the Pacific Explorer was reportedly in touch with those aboard the Second Life throughout the evening.

“Guests will be kept up to date with any necessary itinerary adjustments as Pacific Explorer renders assistance to those in distress.”

The New Zealand Rescue Co-ordination Centre said that one of the yacht crew was now onboard the Pacific Explorer receiving medical assistance.

“Due to conditions and the comparative size of the Pacific Explorer, assisting the remaining people onboard the yacht isn’t possible.”

Passenger Ali Gilchrist Gilchrist told the Herald that the cruise ship had now left the scene and no other crew were taken aboard the ship.

“RCC NZ requested we monitor the yacht from a distance, as it is unsafe for us to get the [remaining crew] off the yacht in their condition,” she said.

The RFN released the cruise ship from observation duties around 4pm and it was now headed towards Port Denarau.

Cruise passenger John McFarlane photographed a rescue and recovery being conducted via navy launch.

“The launch from the Fijian warship went back across, we’re not yet clear on the offloaded passengers’ condition, however,” he said.

The Pacific Explorer is currently on an eight-day itinerary from Auckland with 2000 guests, mostly New Zealanders and Australians.

She was due to arrive in Suva, Fiji on Monday morning.

The 12-metre yacht, which bears the lettering Second Life on its hull, is a New Zealand-flagged ship, last seen in Nadi Bay, Fiji on September 21.

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