Photography club 'saddened by tragic loss' of five members in Kaikōura boating accident

The photography club five people who died in a boating accident in Kaikoura were members of say they are saddened by the tragedy. 

The Nature Photography Society of New Zealand posted on Facebook on Sunday morning saying their thoughts are with the families of the deceased victims. 

"The Nature Photography Society of New Zealand is saddened by the tragic loss at sea in Kaikoura during a trip by society members that took the lives of 5 of our members," the Nature Photography Society of New Zealand wrote on Facebook. 

"We do not yet know what caused the vessel to capsize and that is something that will be addressed by Maritime NZ in due course.

"In the meantime, our thoughts are with the families of those members of the society who have lost their lives."

The tragedy happened on Saturday after the chartered fishing boat the photographers were on capsized in Goose Bay. 

It's believed the 8.5-metre vessel overturned at around 10am after it collided with a whale.

Police said 11 people were on board and five had died. 

Police said at a press conference on Saturday the "large-scale" maritime search and rescue operation had finished, and the police dive squad were recovering the deceased.

"This has been a tragic event and the police are providing support to those involved at this very difficult time," police said. 

Police said the passengers were a part of a bird-watching group that came from all parts of the country and had hired a charter boat.

Maritime NZ’s investigators have commenced their inquiries into yesterday’s tragic events at Goose Bay to establish the cause of the accident.

This will involve reviewing the conditions on the day, examining the vessel and interviewing people involved.

We will conduct our investigation with the utmost sensitivity for those involved.

Maritime NZ said in a statement  investigators will work alongside NZ Police and Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) staff who are also establishing what happened. TAIC announced on Saturday night it is investigating.

"The exact circumstances surrounding the incident are still to be established. No further information is available at this time. We will assess the information gathered and decide the next steps."

On Saturday Maritime NZ said they sent two investigators from Christchurch to Kaikōura and any investigation activity will commence after rescue and recovery operations have concluded. 

"Maritime NZ offers its heartfelt condolences to the family and loved ones of the people who have died in today's incident," Maritime NZ principal investigator Tracy Phillips said.

"We'll be conducting a thorough investigation under the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Maritime Transport Act and we’ll do everything we can to support NZ Police in their investigation."