Jun 27, 2013 3:39 PM

Lafayette teen among those on yacht; Not heard from since June 4th

A Lafayette college student is among those on board a yacht that hasn't been heard from in more than three weeks.  We spoke to 18-year-old Danielle Wright's father who says he's certain she's okay.  Ricky Wright says he knows the group she was with would have set off the emergency locator beacon if they would have encountered any trouble, and that didn't happen.  Wright also says other factors including weather, the currents, and the distance would have made the trip back home much longer than it would usually take.  He hopes they'll be arriving back to port sometime next week.  Wright says his family, including Danielle, has spent up to 14 months at sea at a time.  

According to the Associated Press, a New Zealand meteorologist took the last known calls from the seven people aboard an American schooner on June 4th.  They said, "the weather's turned nasty, how do we get away from it?" The classic 85-year-old wooden vessel is sailing from New Zealand to Australia, and they were expected to arrive in mid-June.  Authorities say the skipper of the 70-foot (21-meter) vessel Nina is American David Dyche.  His wife and son are also sailing, as well as one other American man, two American females (including Danielle), and a British man.

Meteorologist Bob McDavitt said he took a satellite phone call from the boat on June 3rd. A woman named Evi asked how to get away from the weather.  "She was quite controlled in her voice, it sounded like everything was under control," McDavitt said, adding that the call itself indicated she was concerned about the conditions. McDavitt said he spoke only briefly to Evi, advising her to head south and to brace for a storm with strong winds and high seas. The next day he got a text, the last known communication from the boat: "ANY UPDATE 4 NINA? ... EVI" McDavitt said he advised the crew to stay put and ride out the storm another day. He continued sending messages the next few days but didn't hear back.

Kevin Banaghan, who is spearheading search efforts by Maritime New Zealand's Rescue Coordination Centre, said rescuers weren't worried at first because there had been no distress call from the boat and its emergency locator beacon had not been activated.  This week, he said, rescuers escalated their efforts. An air force plane on Tuesday searched the area where the boat went missing. A second search by the plane on Wednesday went as far as the Australian coast but again turned up nothing.

Authorities say the storm three weeks ago had winds gusting up to 110 kilometers (68 miles) per hour and waves of up to 8 meters (26 feet). 

» There are multiple updates to this story. Please click here to get the latest information.


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