In New Zealand Pacific communities mourn victims of fishing tragedy

The Kaipara Harbour is said to be the largest natural harbour in the southern hemisphere.

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Bill McNatty, owner of The Francie, died along with seven others. play

Bill McNatty, owner of The Francie, died along with seven others.

(Stuff)
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The New Zealand Police on Monday said seven men from three Pacific island nations were among the eight killed in a weekend boating tragedy in the north of New Zealand.

A Police statement identified the men aged 31 to 59 as four Tongans, two Cook Islanders and a Samoan, who were part of New Zealand’s Pacific island population.

One of the men, Taulagi Afamasaga, 59, from Samoa was still missing, but was presumed drowned.

However, the search would continue for the missing man.

It said that the eighth man to die was skipper Bill McNatty.

Three men survived the accident after being thrown into rough seas, with two reportedly plucked from the water by a rescue helicopter and one making it to shore.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) has launched an investigation into the cause of the accident, which happened on Saturday just outside the Kaipara Harbor, north of Auckland.

“There are a number of people we need to interview, we also need to work around the family arrangements for those who lost their lives in this tragic accident.

“This is not an easy time for those families,’’ TAIC chief investigator Capt. Tim Burfoot said in a statement.

The group of 10 Pacific island men had reportedly hired McNatty and his charter boat, which was capable of carrying 20 people, for a fishing expedition.

Questions were being raised on Monday as to why none of the men were found to be wearing life jackets and why McNatty had decided to cross one of the most dangerous stretches of water in New Zealand in bad weather.

The Kaipara Harbour is said to be the largest natural harbour in the southern hemisphere.

However, shipping has been abandoned long ago, because the harbour entrance is notoriously dangerous and has claimed many wrecks.

The entrance, known as the Kaipara Bar, is narrow and its shifting sands make it unpredictable.

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