Navy ship led search in Foveaux Strait tragedy
When news broke on March 15 that a fishing boat with nine people on board had capsized in Foveaux Strait, the team on HMNZS RESOLUTION had already switched from training mode to search and rescue mode and were making their way from Fiordland to the last known position of FV Easy Rider.
With one survivor rescued earlier in the day, RESOLUTION arrived on the scene at about 2300 and served as the coordination platform in the search for eight people including a young boy. Crew members used searchlights to scour the area and sonar equipment to detect objects under the surface of the water. The search was suspended at 0400 and was resumed by daybreak. By 0800, RESOLUTION had found what appeared to be the hull of FV Easy Rider.
By Friday afternoon, the Operational Dive Team had deployed from Whenuapai to Invercargill in a RNZAF C-130 Hercules, to join RESOLUTION in the search for bodies. As FV Easy Rider had sank 40m, specialist dive equipment including the portable decompression chamber was required to ensure the safety of the team.
After several attempts, the Dive Team confirmed that there were no bodies in the wreck. Four people remain missing, presumed dead.
"I wish finding the boat could have returned the missing crew to their families," said Lieutenant Commander Matt Wray, Commanding Officer of RESOLUTION.
"It would have been good if we could have provided them with some closure."
The local community lauded the units involved in the response for their dedication, persistence and professionalism. The Navy’s response again proved the value of training in preparing for emergency situations.