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Skipper of boat which sank, killing eight, had habit of crossing Kaipara Harbour in bad conditions, investigation finds

An investigation into the sinking of a fishing charter boat that killed eight people north of Auckland has found the conditions were unsuitable and that the skipper had a propensity for crossing the harbour in bad conditions.

The skipper and a group of mates from Auckland are dead after The Francie was toppled in Kaipara Harbour yesterday. Source: 1 NEWS

For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) has just released its findings into the 2016 tragedy.

Just before 7am on November 26, the Francie left Parakai Wharf headed for Kaipara Harbour with eleven people, including skipper and owner of the boat, Bill McNatty, on board.

1 NEWS' Emily Cooper has come from a news conference where Transport Accident Investigation staff have discussed the findings. Source: 1 NEWS

After a morning of fishing in what was described as calm conditions, the boat headed back towards the entrance of the harbour. By then the wave and swell height had increased significantly, with waves described as "monsters" by the three survivors.

The decision to cross the hazardous bar was dependent on weather conditions.

The Francie was struck from behind by a large wave and capsized. Eight of the 11 people on board died.

The eight bodies were recovered in the nine days following the accident. One of the men who died was wearing a life jacket but it wasn't fitted with a crotch strap and it came off in the water.

One of the three survivors was wearing a life jacket, while the other two used a flotsam and a nearby life jacket to stay afloat while they waited to be rescued.

TAIC made two major findings in the investigation, including that the conditions on the Kaipara Harbour when the Francie attempted to return were predictably unsuitable for the vessel to cross and that the skipper had a propensity for crossing the harbour bar in adverse conditions.

It also found that it's "virtually certain" that everyone on board would've had a better chance of survival if they were wearing life jackets, particularly if they had been fitted with crotch straps.

The report said people have a "low appreciation" of the importance of wearing life jackets.

Lessons from the inquiry include that extreme caution must be taken when crossing bars like the Kaipara Harbour, as sea conditions can change in a very short time, that wearing life jackets improves chances of survival and chances of survival are significantly improved if they are fitted properly.