Enchanter survivor describes final moments before death of five men in Northland tragedy

Families of the men who died at sea when the Enchanter capsized off North Cape have heard an emotional account by survivor Jayde Cook during the skipper's trial in the Whangārei District Court.   

Cook is one of five who survived the March 2022 tragedy along with the skipper Lance Goodhew and his deckhand Kobe O'Neill.   

Te Awamutu's Mark Sanders, 43, Richard Bright, 63 from Cambridge, Geoffrey Allen, 72, his son-in-law Mark "Skid" Walker and 72-year-old Mike Lovett all died when a giant wave hit the Enchanter on the journey home from the Three Kings Islands.   

Enchanter Fishing company owner and skipper Goodhew is on trial for breaching his duties as a worker on the vessel, exposing individuals to a risk of death or serious injury.   

Cook, a Putaruru quarry manager who has been "fishing from a very young age", told the court the group met the skipper for a briefing prior to leaving Mangonui on March 17.   

"There was a lot of emphasis on where safety equipment was kept, lifejackets, EPIRB (emergency position-indicating radiobeacon etc."   

Invited on the trip by Walker, he said they enjoyed three good days of big game fishing in and around the Three Kings Islands on what was "a trip of a lifetime".   

Cook described the moment the wave hit about 7:50pm on Sunday, March 20, as "like a grenade going off, a lot of green water and bubbles and the next minute, we were on the surface".   

He said it was a "chaotic scene" as he and Shay Ward clambered up on Enchanter's hull, slippery due to antifoul paint.   

With his hand to his face, Cook fought back tears as he described seeing Lovett in the water "face down" before O'Neill began CPR.   

"It was too late," Cook said. Lovett's family listened on from the public gallery with bowed heads.   

"We could see Mark [Sanders] in the distance with the life ring on. We called out to him but he couldn't hear."   

O'Neill earlier gave evidence the forecast the night before had been discussed with the group by Goodhew.    

"Having a sleep-in, a leisurely morning, that was the plan," said O'Neill.   

"On Saturday night we were told it was going to blow significantly, that it would not be enjoyable. So, we discussed the plan to stay within the Princes Islands [the] next morning," Cook said.   

He described the conditions as 1.5-2 metre swells and 20 knot winds as they left the area to head home mid-afternoon.   

"You'd get the odd big swell, but it wasn't any significant change to what we'd experienced in the days before."   

O'Neill recalled cooking dinner on Sunday evening when the group was about 15 to 20 minutes from the anchorage, and about 3 nautical miles from Murimotu island.   

He described the moment the wave hit as "like being hit by a train."   

Te Awamutu fisherman Ward, who was the only one out the back where the group had lures out, said there was no indication of the wave.   

"When we were at the bottom of the trough, I thought, 'That's a big swell'... we were just going up a big swell that's what I could see, it was obviously a big steep, short, swell that crested and got us."   

Ward said the Enchanter, in the moments prior, "was rocking and rolling as a boat normally would rock and roll in a 2-metre sea, nothing uncomfortable". 

He told the court the conditions were such that several of the men on board had had showers.   

"It's pretty hard to have a shower in 30-knot winds and 4-5m sea, you just don't do that."   

In the moments following the catastrophic capsize, Ward there was "black smoke everywhere and the props were spinning".   

With O'Neill, Goodhew, Ben Stinson and now Lovett floating on the debris from the wheelhouse, he recalled how "all three guys in the water were expressionless".  

Walker, who was prone to seasickness and had been unwell for much of the trip "but still had a great time", was trapped in his bunk.  

The trial is set down for three weeks.