Yacht crewman a 'humble man'

Nick Saull (Newshub.)
Nick Saull (Newshub.)

A crewman who died after being hit by rigging on a yacht north of New Zealand is being remembered by friends as a "humble man", while one person remains missing.

The yacht ran into trouble about 550km north of New Zealand after encountering bad weather and high winds. Aucklander Nick Saull died in the incident and another was knocked overboard. 

Yacht crewman a 'humble man'

Nick Saull

Three other crew members who were still onboard the yacht were rescued Tuesday afternoon by the container ship Southern Lily while the search continues for the 63-year-old missing in the sea.

An earlier attempt to rescue the three crew members was hampered by bad weather. 

Mr Saull's body remains onboard the abandoned yacht, as the weather conditions meant it was too dangerous to transfer his body to the container. Maritime New Zealand says swells were three metres high. An EPIRB beacon has been activated on the yacht so it can be tracked.

Friends of Mr Saull have taken to social media to post their tributes to him.  He was a father of four, and described as a good rugby player and "gentle giant".

"One of the most humble men you could ever meet, natural born leader and all the guys on the rugby field just followed him and loved him to bits," says his teammate Danny Hemmingway.

Mr Saull's friend Mark Readman met him through the local surf club and has known him for a number of years. 

He says he was "a gentle giant, that kind of guy who everyone loves". 

"He was one of those guys who had a lovely nature, just a real good bloke. He was one of those guys who just gives back. And it's so tragic for us to lose him like that. It's just surreal really." 

He says Mr Saull, director of Brin Wilson Boat Builders, was a big player in the Red Beach community where he was from. 

"He was involved in rugby clubs and had a nautical background. He had a huge commitment to the surf-club in many ways. It's such a difficult time for all the members because Nick was a guy that was just so, so respected."

He says he had four kids who were also all involved in the surf club in some way. 

"The family's all absolutely devastated of course and struggling to come to grips with it all." 

The Rescue Coordination Centre NZ (RCCNZ) is coordinating the rescue operation and search for the missing man.

RCCNZ search and rescue mission coordinator John Dickson praised the master and crew of the Southern Lily for what was a difficult operation.

"It was not easy to get the three crew members from the yacht to the much larger ship in those sea conditions, they've done a tremendous job," he says.

"We are obviously disappointed that it was not safe to transfer the body of the deceased crew member, but safety must come first. We will keep track of the position of the yacht."

The search for the missing man will continue until nigthfall, while the Southern Lily is on its way to Auckland, which is expected to take about two days.

SV Platino and the container ship which rescued the three crew (NZDF)