CoastguardMana Saving Lives at Sea

Coastguard Mana Helps Search For Missing Diver

13 Dec 2007
Posted by Mark Presling
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Coastguard Mana helped coordinate the recent major search for a missing female diver who failed to surface near Boom Rock, a couple of miles north of Makara, Saturday 8 December.

The private dive trip of four friends ended in tragedy when the body of Ms Jacqueline Michelle Ngapera, 37, a mother of three, was found 24 hours after she went missing.

Ms Ngapera was ready to surface with her buddy on Saturday monring, 8 December, when she disappeared. The alarm was raised on Channel 16 and a search started soon after 9am, coordinated from Coastguard Mana's base.

The search, led by Wellington Police Search and Rescue, ran south along the coast from Mana Island down past Ohau Point and out into Cook Strait to The Brother Islands. It involved over 10 Police, Coastguard and private vessels, two helicopters, a plane and the Police National Dive Squad.

Coastguard units involved were Mana’s two vessels Trust Porirua Rescue and CRV Pelorus, Kapiti Coast Coastguard's vessels Pharazyn Rescue and Waikanae Rescue and a plane from the Kapiti Coastguard Air Patrol. Other vessels were the Police launch Lady Elizabeth III and the RHIB Police 8 from Wellington Maritime Police. The Westpac Rescue helicopter and a helicopter from Helipro were tasked, and several private vessels from Mana Cruising Club and other local boaties assisted. Police divers joined the search on Saturday afternoon.

Mana Coastguard’s vessel Trust Porirua Rescue spent over 12 hours on the water Saturday, was on-scene command for a significant period and at times was co-ordinating up to seven vessels in parallel line searches up and down the coast.

The initial search parameters of approximately 70sq nautical miles were expanded to more than 280 sq nautical miles after advice from local boaties and divers, and continual updates of tide and drift patterns.

Westpac Rescue was up again at first light on Sunday conducting a shoreline search. Coastguard vessels (Mana and Kapiti) and aircraft (Kapiti) had been re-tasked and were either on the water or preparing to depart for further searching on Sunday, when all vessels and aircraft were stood down.

The missing diver had been found in about 21m of water, not far from where she went missing. Ms Ngapera's body was returned to Mana Marina by Police 8 and police divers mid morning.

It's too early to comment on what might have happened to the diver. Police divers will be re-searching the seabed near where the body was found as part of their inquiries into a report that will be prepared for the Coroner.

Ms Ngapera had attended dive classes and was wearing appropriate safety equipment.

Coastguard Mana Search Controller Chris Henshaw, working under Police Search and Rescue direction, said that the support by the local diving and boating community was tremendous. This resulted in a large amount of water being searched in ideal sea and weather conditions.

“If Ms Ngapera had been on the surface, she would have been found on Saturday.”

During the search, members of the public and a Mana Coastguard vessel also had to attend to a sinking boat. It was recovered to shore where it was refloated and then towed to Makara Beach.

Police have thanked all Coastguard crew members who voluntarily gave up a significant part of their weekend to take part in the search. They also acknowledged the support from the local community who put their own vessels on the water to assist.

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