Search off Gisborne NZ suspended after Ovation OTS cruise passenger spots body in water

   March 17, 2023 ,   Accidents

A search by two rescue helicopters last night off the coast of Gisborne (New Zealand) where a cruise ship passenger reportedly saw a body floating in the water was called off after the helicopters ran low on fuel.

According to a spokesperson for Maritime NZ, a passenger from RCI-Royal Caribbean's ship Ovation of the Seas had reported seeing what they thought might be a body in the water ~25 NM (~29 mi / 46 km) off the coast.

As a result, Search and Rescue helicopters were scanning the area.

A spokesperson from the Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust said that the aircraft had searched the sea for 2+ hours on Friday, March 17th.

Gisborne’s Trust Tairawhiti Eastland Helicopter Rescue crew, dispatched by the Rescue Co-Ordination Centre, launched just before 6 pm NZ time (5 am UTC).

They were joined ~90 minutes later by a Hawke’s Bay Rescue Helicopter crew, who had been delivering a patient in Gisborne.

According to a Gisborne crew spokesperson, each helicopter had a fuel capacity of 2 hours to spend circling the search area, by which time low supplies/failing visibility had forced them to call off the operation.

A Maritime NZ spokesperson said the search was unlikely to be resumed on Saturday morning.

The 5000-passenger liner Ovation OTS (Quantum-class vessel) departed from Sydney (NSW Australia) on March 11th for a 12-day roundtrip voyage to New Zealand.

For more Ovation of the Seas incidents and accidents see the ship's CruiseMinus page.