Fishing boat tragedy: Cambridge mates returned to Three Kings to fulfil fishing dream

A Cambridge publican was returning to the Far North to try to catch a marlin after being on a similar trip to the remote Three Kings fishing spot three years ago.

Richard Bright, 63, and his mate Mike Lovett, 72, packed their car on Wednesday morning and headed up to Mangōnui to join the five-day fishing charter.

But the much-awaited fishing trip turned into a tragedy as the pair were among the five men who either lost their lives or is still missing when a large wave capsized their charter boat Enchanter near North Cape.

Ten people were on board the vessel Enchanter when it sank and five people who were winched to safety have since been discharged from Kaitaia Hospital, including the boat’s skipper, Lance Goodhew.

The bodies of four people have been recovered and a large-scale air and water search is continuing for the remaining person today.

Long-time friend Rick Williams caught up with Bright for a beer at his bar the Group One Turf Bar on Tuesday night just before he headed off, while he had also just seen Lovett who worked at his thoroughbred stud farm.

It was the second time the pair had gone on a fishing charter to the Three Kings.

“They had been there once and it was Richard’s wish to hook a marlin. He hadn’t got one. He had caught every other form of fish, so this is why he went again this year to go and get a marlin.”

But Williams is unsure whether his good friend Bright and long-serving colleague Lovett fulfilled the dream that was shattered when a rogue wave split the boat they were staying on in two.

Yesterday was a tough day for the stud farm manager after losing three friends – Bright, Lovett and 43-year-old father-of-three and Te Awamutu builder Mark Sanders – to the ocean. Two other men from Cambridge are also understood to be missing or dead.

“It was just an unbelievably bad day. I’m not even family and I feel terrible, so I can’t think or understand it.”

He described Bright as a “likeable clown” and said his death was a terrible loss not only to his friends and family, but also the wider Cambridge community to which he gave a lot of money through his bar.

“We were very close. He was a larger-than-life character. He was a modern-day Basil Faulty. He could say the most inappropriate things to his clients as they walked into the bar and no one minded, they came back for more.”

Williams had also known Lovett for many years, both as his friend and, for the last 16 years, also as an employee at The Oaks.

He said the father-of-four adult children was a “good bloke and a good family man”.

“He was an old-fashioned Kiwi, he was set in his ways, he was a creature of habit and what he did was what he did. A very likeable guy, very consistent, he turned up every day for work and you couldn’t wish for a better worker.”

Williams said it was a real shame the tragedy had taken all three of their lives on one day.

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