Catamaran tragedy

An investigation is underway into how a sailing catamaran capsized in rough conditions in Stockton Bight earlier today, leaving three people dead.

Written by Scott Alle
Photography by ABC

11 July 2019


Two survivors, a 16 year-old girl, and a man in his 40s, believed to be the yacht’s skipper, were winched-off the 11.7 metre cat by the Westpac Lifesaver 1 helicopter from Newcastle.

They were taken to John Hunter Hospital, the extent of injuries is thought to be minor. It’s unclear how long the pair were in the water.

Luke Wiseman from NSW Ambulance described the scene of the tragedy, seven nautical miles off Stockton Beach, as “confronting”. 

“What made the rescue quite difficult is being an overturned vessel, there was quite a lot of debris and ropes in the water at the time,” he said.

Marine Rescue NSW vessels from Newcastle and Port Stephens also assisted in a sea-state Hunter Regional Operations Manager Steve Raymond termed as “a short, savage three-metre chop”, combined with a strong westerly gusting at times to over 30 knots.


Statement from Detective Acting Superintendent Grant Healey at Water Police HQ in Balmain.

Video of the upturned vessel showed both hulls appear to be intact, and the sails submerged. The most likely scenario in that situation is a pitch-pole, but that can’t be confirmed by police who are interviewing the survivors and will prepare a report for the coroner. A small RIB remains tethered to the hull.

The cat was heading from Shoal Bay to Ettalong, when the crew activated an  EPIRB around 10.10am.

The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Canberra detected the signal and co-ordinated the rescue services, including an RAAF plane.

According to NSW police Detective Acting Superintendent Grant Healey, the boat is still drifting off the coast, and he couldn’t confirm whether any kind of tracking or warning device was attached that could be picked-up by passing craft.

“As soon as there’s favourable sea conditions there will be an attempt to salvage the vessel, but while the weather is like it is all we can do is let the boating community know where it is,” he said.

It’s also unclear if all five crew-members were wearing PFDs, but police confirmed the two survivors were wearing life-jackets

Three bodies – all adults – were retrieved by Marine Rescue.

Locals say the boat wasn’t from Port Stephens.

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