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Exclusion zone imposed around wreck of gutted tourist boat

Accident investigators have moved to keep people away from the wreck of the charter boat PeeJay V which sank after catching fire off Whakatane on Monday afternoon.

Sixty passengers and crew were forced to jump from the tourist boat about one kilometre off the Whakatane Harbour entrance after the fire broke out on the return trip from White Island.

Pee Jay V sank off the coast of Whakatane yesterday, forcing passengers to jump into the ocean. Source: 1 NEWS

They were all rescued but the boat was gutted by fire and later sank.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission says it's working with other agencies to establish an exclusion zone around the wreck. 

The commission is also issuing a preservation and protection order to prohibit people tampering with the wreck and debris.  

Meanwhile, the investigation team completed its initial evidence gathering in Whakatane today and intends to contact passengers next week.

The Rescue Coordination Centre received a mayday call at about 4pm on Monday to say everyone was abandoning the vessel and a Coastguard boat along with several small local vessels helped recover passengers and crew from the water.

Four people were taken to Tauranga Hospital.