Birth­day trip turns tragic

Fam­ily dev­as­tated af­ter grand­fa­ther falls over­board dur­ing fish­ing trip

The New Zealand Herald - - NEWS - Belinda Feek

Alan Saun­ders had promised to take his 11 year old grand­son on a fish­ing char­ter as a birth­day treat. So come Saturday both of them were “in­cred­i­bly ex­cited” as they headed out to Kaipara Har­bour for a day on the wa­ter.

But, what should have been a per­fect day out ended in tragedy when Saun­ders fell over­board and died soon af­ter.

The 76-year-old’s fam­ily are now griev­ing the loss of a de­voted fa­ther and grand­fa­ther and ques­tion­ing

Why did the fish­ing ex­cur­sion go ahead de­spite the stormy con­di­tions? Why wasn’t every­one wear­ing life­jack­ets given the stormy con­di­tions? Me­lanie Bridge, step­daugh­ter

why the char­ter boat headed out in such stormy con­di­tions.

Speak­ing on be­half of Alan Ge­orge Saun­ders’ fam­ily, step­daugh­ter Me­lanie Bridge said the trip was a long-awaited birth­day treat for her son Spike Jack­son.

Saun­ders was with Jack­son when he fell from the com­mer­cial fish­ing ves­sel, Kaipara Kat Fish­ing Char­ter, about 10.30am.

Emer­gency ser­vices were called to Shelly Beach Head, about 19km north of Parakai.

A coast­guard spokesper­son said Saun­ders had fallen over­board while in the Kaipara Har­bour but was pulled back on to the boat. She said he suf­fered a med­i­cal event once back on board the ves­sel.

Bridge said Saun­ders was an en­thu­si­as­tic fish­er­man, and a ded­i­cated grand-dad.

“He’d been promis­ing to take his 11 year old grand­son Spike Jack­son on a fish­ing char­ter as a birth­day treat. [Saturday] was the day and they were both in­cred­i­bly ex­cited.

“The boat headed out on the Kaipara Har­bour in the early hours of the morn­ing. The weather was bad, with high winds, and sea so rough that Spike and an­other child on board were vom­it­ing.”

Bridge said the fam­ily be­lieved Saun­ders drowned af­ter los­ing his bal­ance in heavy seas and fall­ing over­board with no jacket on.

By the time his body was re­cov­ered and CPR was ad­min­is­tered it was too late.

“Our fam­ily can­not make sense of this tragedy. Alan was a smart and sen­si­ble man, how could this hap­pen to him? Why did the fish­ing ex­cur­sion go ahead de­spite the stormy con­di­tions? Why wasn’t every­one wear­ing life­jack­ets given the stormy con­di­tions?”

Saun­ders was a beloved fa­ther, grand­fa­ther, part­ner and trea­sured friend, and she said he died “in an un­be­liev­able fish­ing boat tragedy”.

“Alan was ab­so­lutely one in a mil­lion. He was adored by all his fam­ily and friends and to say he will be missed is an un­der­state­ment. Spike is be­ing cared for by his fam­ily with guid­ance from vic­tim sup­port.”

Po­lice are now in­ves­ti­gat­ing on be­half of the coro­ner.

A spokes­woman for the char­ter com­pany re­ferred ques­tions to the po­lice.

Mar­itime New Zealand spokesman Vince Cholera said its in­ves­ti­ga­tors were due to re­ceive a re­port from po­lice today be­fore de­cid­ing whether they needed to pur­sue any ac­tion.

Alan Saun­ders, 76, pic­tured on the morn­ing of the trip with his 11-year-old grand­son Spike.

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