New Zealander dead after pirate attack in Panama

The Culverwell family
The Culverwell family Photo credit: Facebook

A New Zealander has been fatally shot and his wife attacked by pirates on a boat in Panama.

Pirates boarded the launch belonging to Picton man Al Culverwell while he and his family were in the Guna Yala region in the north of the country. 

The family heard a noise on the roof of the vessel and when Culverwell went to see what it was he was shot and then his wife, Derryn Culverwell, was attacked with a machete, NZME reported. 

It is understood one of their children suffered minor injuries. 

A Facebook post on Culverwell's sister Derryn Hughes' page issued a statement on behalf of the Culverwell and Fisher families regarding the death of Alan. 

"Nothing could have prepared us for the attack that took place overnight and has tragically taken Alan’s life," it said. 

"We want to assure you all that Derryn and the children are safe, while understandably traumatised. We are so grateful that they survived this attack and we will work as a family to support them through the coming days, weeks, months and years."

The statement offered apologies to Alan's friends possibly hearing of the news through Facebook, sharing: "Please know our thoughts and love are with you." 

It said the whole family is "devastated" with what has happened.

"We would appreciate privacy at this time as we grieve as a family. We are all heartbroken."

The family had been cruising the Caribbean and were on their way to the Panama Canal to eventually head back to New Zealand.  

The Panama Press reports the family were taken to hospital where they are being seen to by medical staff. 

El Siglo reported Culverwell was surprised by several hooded individuals who entered his ship early Thursday, to rob them.

The alleged murderers, after committing the crime, fled and have not been captured, the paper said. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed they were providing consular assistance to a New Zealand family following an incident in Panama.

Due to privacy considerations they wouldn't comment further.

The family statement thanked anyone who had offered kindess and love, as well as the ongoing support of MFAT, NZ Police and Interpol.