Four people were confirmed dead and grave fears were held for another four missing after a fishing boat capsized in rough seas off New Zealand's South Island, police said on Friday.
Police said one survivor was plucked from the sea and four bodies had been recovered after the accident in the notorious Foveaux Strait off the southern tip of the South Island but the situation "appears bleak" for those missing.
They said a seven-year-old child was among those still unaccounted for.
Police said the boat, Easy Rider, set off from the town of Bluff on Wednesday evening and hit trouble in the early hours yesterday morning.
They said the rescued crew member, who was winched aboard a helicopter after spending 18 hours in the chilly water, reported that a freak wave hit the vessel and sank it almost immediately.
A search today found the wreckage of the boat on the sea bed and 12 ships, including coast guard and navy vessels were scouring the waters where the accident happened.
Police and navy divers were also preparing to try to reach the wreckage tomorrow.
"We extend our deepest sympathies to the families," police said in a statement.
The Foveaux Strait, which runs between Bluff and Stewart Island, is considered one of New Zealand's most unpredictable stretches of water. Six people died there in 2006 when their boat capsized.