Search halted in Wellington Harbor for man believed to have fallen from ferry

Police say they are still searching for a man believed to have fallen overboard from a Wellington ferry, but they are not actively searching the water.

Up to 14 boats and a rescue helicopter scoured Wellington Harbor yesterday when the man was first reported missing yesterday morning.

Detective Sergeant Rachael Boyd said the East by West ferry was traveling towards Days Bay, Eastbourne, from Queens Wharf and departed shortly after 6am.

“The man is described as being in his 40s, with light skin, around 180cm tall and with darker hair,” he said.

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“He was wearing a dark zip-up jacket and dark pants.

“If you have just arrived home and have a family member or friend matching this description who has not returned home as expected, please contact police.”

The man was not found yesterday and rescue teams suspended the search for the night.

Police said today they were still searching but had not resumed an active search of the water.

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However, they said the water search “would be restarted if more information came to light.”

The trajectory of a Westpac rescue helicopter on flight radar after joining the search in Wellington Harbor for a person who reportedly fell from a ferry.
The trajectory of a Westpac rescue helicopter on flight radar after joining the search in Wellington Harbor for a person who reportedly fell from a ferry.

Deputy Port Director Patrick Atwood said yesterday that he understood ferry staff had called for help when they realized the passenger was missing.

“It was the first trip of the day, there was only one passenger on board and it was noted that that passenger, as the ferry approached Days Bay, was missing.”

East by West Ferries general manager Mat Jonsson said yesterday that the ferry crew issued an emergency call and began searching as soon as they realized the passenger was missing.

“We called a second ferry from the port to assist with the search, which was joined by other boats that responded to the rescue,” Jonsson said.

“This morning conditions in the port were very calm. The main cabin of the boat involved is completely enclosed and the upper deck has barriers around the passenger area to prevent anyone from accidentally falling overboard.

“We thank New Zealand Police for the speed with which they took control of the search and the resources they committed. “We are assisting the police with their investigations and have decided that East by West Ferries will not resume services today.”

Police send Lady Elizabeth II to search Wellington Harbor for a passenger believed to have fallen overboard from an East by West ferry.  Photo / Mark Mitchell
Police send Lady Elizabeth II to search Wellington Harbor for a passenger believed to have fallen overboard from an East by West ferry. Photo / Mark Mitchell

New Zealand’s Maritime Rescue Coordination Center coordinated water search efforts using detailed port modeling and analysis, the Greater Wellington Regional Council said yesterday.

“The Greater Wellington whānau is deeply saddened by this incident. Our thoughts are with the crew of the boat sailing at 6am and also the staff at East by West,” Greater Wellington president Daran Ponter said.

East by West Ferries said yesterday it will resume normal services today.

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