Private rescue in Operation Erie, blocked by Police.

When Marlborough Man, William Kerry Blair, who has been missing for more than 3 years now, disappeared on March 8th, 2014. His family tried everything they could to mount a recovery once the vessel had been found. Only to have it blocked by the Police. 

Why would the police block a private Recovery / Rescue Operation? Why did they have to manage everything? Especially considering the circumstances. 

I was going through some of the paperwork and Now I understand why Marian, from New Plymouth Coastguard Radio, stopped helping us. It was because they were advised to by Senior Sergeant Thomas McIntyre (New Plymouth Police) on the 16th March 2014.

Of note when the family had contacted Marian, she had no Idea the vessel was in her area. She didn't know anything about it. Despite police telling the public they were publishing Marine notices. If they were doing so Marian would have been relaying this information to other seafearers.  

Why would Police advise Coastguard not to help a family looking for their missing loved one? When a recovery of the boat and hopefully Dad could have been done (By a professional crew on a specifically setup recovery vessel)? This had been arranged by the family but the family required some air assistance to help, and some co-operation from Police and other agencies. (this would have made the task alot easier.)

To make it make more sense. A bit of Background is possibly needed. 

On the 8th March 2014, at approx. 4PM, Dad was suspected to have left a Marlborough Sounds address, and not be seen since. He was reported missing shortly before lunchtime on Sunday the 8th March 2014. The information was hard to get from police, and the family was frustrated with the lack of effort and the lack of actual searching going on it was arranged a neighbour to go up in his seaplane. This provided a bit of a search for the Marlborough sounds and no sign of Kerry or the Vessel Erie were located. This lead to a Give A Little page setup to help fund private searches. Information was still hard to get, police still had a lack of any real searching the family put another plane up. But focused on the wrong area because the flight crew and organiser was passed incorrect information from Police as to what the evidence said. Police stated "Kerry had gone down the West Coast, and the Evidence had suggested that he had turned to go south after going past Farewell Spit" this is incorrect, the vessel was West / Northwest of Farewell Spit but had never turned or never gone down the West Coast. 

After a long few days, a few private searches, police also put a plane up scouring the shorelines of the West Coast / Buller regions. Obviously, nothing was found and the family was frustrated that Police weren't getting assistance from the Defence force, who made a request directly. They were advised an Orian was on standby if needed but police needed to request it. From both Parliamentary and Media pressure, the police eventually requested an Airforce Orian. Only to not be prepared for a sighting off New Plymouth. It took police 12 Hours to depart from New Plymouth by then the Airforce Orian had already left the area due to fuel constraints. The police left on the Southern Hemispheres largest tug boat (why need such a large vessel for a 9 Metre Alloy boat)? By the time this vessel had gone out the Erie had drifted from its last known position and the police had to request an Airforce Orian (again). The Vessel used in this instance was the Maersk Seeker, an 82 Metre Anchor Handling Tug. They were never intending to board the Erie and the Erie was abandoned, without any attempt to Board. 

Who arranged for the Maersk Seeker to go to the Vessel that was missing? Senior Sergeant Thomas McIntyre, initiated this procedure. There was no real plan in place and with cyclone Luci arriving police had abandoned the Vessel Erie, there was no marine radio information being relayed despite it now being a Navigation Risk. as the vessel wasn't under power and no response from the vessel. Dad had been missing for a week at the point of abandonment and had very minimal food and water. 

It was then that the family started to make some calls, an Uncle had been a fisherman out of New Plymouth previously so had a few contacts still. We utilised these as well as the private searches contacts and located 2 vessels in New Plymouth willing to go out, one was a fishing vessel, one was a Dedicated Recovery Vessel. Both extremely capable vessels. The family were willing to utilise the Give a little funds to fund it so no Police or Navy funds would have been needed. However, police wouldn't even provide the last known location by means of Latitude and Longitude. They wanted to control the situation. The question is why?

The Family had arranged for the Reef Spirit to attend and recover the vessel and check if Kerry was on board. The Reef Spirit is a dedicated Recovery Vessel working for New Plymouth Underwater. Its specifications can be found here 

What did they need to hide? why didn't they want a recovery vessel to recover it? Even when it was suggested police could have also played a part? Why did Police need a NZ Navy Vessel, that left from Wellington?

The top of the email can be seen here: (Marion is the Coastguard Radio Person, Graham Cowley is the Chairman for Taranaki Coastguard, Wayne Rowlands and Thomas McIntyre are Police Officers, in New Plymouth)

Published by D Blair (Son of William Kerry Blair), Hamilton

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *