Southland, in New Zealand's South Island, is grappling with the prospect of its second boating tragedy in two months, with two lost at sea after a crayfishing boat sank off Doubtful Sound in Fiordland.
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Nothing had been heard from 'KCee' or its Te Anau-based skipper Bruce Gordon for more than 24 hours, with the commercial crayfishing vessel lost off Secretary Island.
The last contact was with a radio operator at 8.20am yesterday, to say the vessel was leaving Blanket Bay to go fishing.
Debris has been found by searchers, with three helicopters, four fishing vessels, and a Conservation Department boat involved.
In March, eight people lost their lives when Bluff vessel Easy Rider was swamped by a rogue wave in Foveaux Strait while on a mutton birding trip.
Now fears are growing for those on board the 'KCee'.
Not knowing its precise location was hampering rescue attempts, search and rescue co-ordinator Sergeant Ian Martin of Invercargill said.
No emergency beacon had been set off. The weather had been rough, though it had improved today.
''We don't know exactly (where the boat may be) yet because of the wind and tide and all of that. It could be quite a large area, but that's yet to be determined. It's changing every minute,'' Martin said.
Gordon, an experienced fisherman, was in March involved in the rescue of eight people who scrambled to safety on rocks after their boat sunk in Thompson Sound, in Fiordland.
Sam Bennett, one of the eight rescued, said he wished there was something he could do to help.
Gordon rescued Bennett and seven others when their boat lost steering while collecting cray pots near Seymour Island.
Bennett and his mother Pam said Gordon was a good friend who used to live next door in Te Anau.
Doubtful Sound can be a dangerous place to fish in rough weather, experienced cray fisherman said.
Riverton fisherman Cyril Lawless, who fished in the area for 15 years and alongside Gordon for several years, said it could be tough.
"It is an isolated area to work and it wouldn't be too nice up there with the weather we have had recently,'' Lawless said.
''There is always a risk when crayfishing in and around Doubtful Sound.''
Gordon had owned the 'KCee' for nearly four years, Lawless said.
Maritime NZ Rescue Co-ordination Centre said it a local search was being co-ordinated by the police.
Southland harbourmaster Kevin O'Sullivan said while the weather in the area had been rough over the last couple of days, conditions were fine today.
Gordon was one of about 65 commercial cray fishermen who fished in the CRA8 area, which stretched from Westland to eastern Southland.
About five of those boats were based in the Doubtful Sound area, which was popular among commercial cray fishermen due to the number of crayfish there.
Environment Southland's oil spill response team has been put on standby, but so far there had been no reports of oil.
Transport Accident Investigation Commission communications manager Peter Northcote said a decision had not yet been made around whether it would look into the vessel's capsize.
Source: Fairfax NZ