Environmentalist on board schooner presumed ‘sunk’

Search: Matthew Wootton was part way through a round the world trip when a schooner he was travelling on is believed to have sunk off the coast of New Zealand
Search: Matthew Wootton was part way through a round the world trip when a schooner he was travelling on is believed to have sunk off the coast of New Zealand

A Lancashire man is among the crew of a ship believed to have sunk between New Zealand and Australia.

Matthew Wootton, a Green Party activist from Lancaster, was travelling on board a 70-foot schooner with six Americans when it is believed to have sunk in a storm.

Maritime New Zealand said that the vessel, a 75-year-old wooden hulled boat, had not been heard of for three weeks.

Rescue operations are 
continuing and focus is now fixed on the hope that the crew may have been able to 
transfer to a life raft after the boat sunk.

Mr Wootton, who was born in London, had worked for a communications company in Lancaster before starting a round the world trip at the start of 2010.

He had been travelling ever since, mostly across North and South America and more recently in New Zealand, according to reports.

It is thought he was travelling to Australia from New Zealand to spend a few months there before coming back home.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed Mr Wootton was among those aboard the schooner.

A spokesman said: “We are aware a schooner has been reported missing, thought to be between New Zealand and Australia on June 27.

“We understand a British national is on board and we are providing consular assistance to the family. We are liaising with the local authorities and will continue to monitor the situation.”

In an interview with a national newspaper, Mr Wootton’s mother Susan, 62, who lives in Kent, urged search times to keep looking for his boat. She said: “We just want the New Zealand coastguard to keep on looking for the boat. They’ve only searched one third of the area they should be searching.”

Mr Wootton, a University College Northampton graduate, worked for the Green Party between 2003 and 2005.

In 2005 he was part of a campaign to save Greaves Park Nursery in Lancaster.

It is believed he set sail from Opua on New’s Zealand’s North Island on May 29.

When last heard from six days later the boat was about 370 nautical miles west-north-west of the country’s most northerly point.

Six Americans were also on board including captain David Dyche, 58, his wife Rosemary, 60, and their son David, 17.