Survivor of New Zealand Fishing Boat Disaster Clung to Petrol Can to Stay Alive

VIDEO: Dallas Reedy clung to a petrol can for 18 hours to stay
WATCH New Zealand Boat Disaster: Survivor Recounts

Four people have died and four remain missing off the southern tip of New Zealand after their fishing boat was hit by a rogue wave and capsized, according to police. One survivor was fished from the waters and told his story from a local hospital.

The 40-foot fishing boat, called "Easy Rider," was carrying three crew members and six passengers, including a 7-year-old child, when it went down early Thursday morning near Stewart Island, about 19 miles off the New Zealand mainland, authorities said.

The boat was not reported missing until nearly 14 hours later when the pilot of the helicopter the boat was supposed to meet up with alerted authorities, according to Invercargill Police Inspector Lane Todd.

Rescuers found the sole known survivor from the ship nearly four hours after they were first alerted.

Dallas Reedy, 44, was found in the freezing waters around 6 p.m. local time Thursday clinging to a petrol can. He told authorities he named the can "Wilson" in reference to the volleyball that provided company to Tom Hanks's stranded character in the survivor film "Castaway."

"I sang to him. I talked to him. I just did everything I could to stay alive," Reedy told reporters from his hospital bed on Friday where he was being treated for hypothermia, his only major injury from his 18-hour ordeal.

"I was ready to cross over, and that's made me a lot more relaxed. I talked to myself and to Wilson," he said.

Reedy told police he was on the ship's deck just after midnight when the boat was hit by a rogue wave. He held on to the boat's hull for about two hours before it sank , releasing him into the dark and frigid waters with only the petrol can to keep him afloat, according to The Southland Times.

Reedy, the paper reports, tried to get the attention of passing boats and helicopters but his tongue had swollen up, preventing him from being able to scream.

He finally caught the attention of a passing Coast Guard boat by throwing his petrol can in the air.

"It was just mayhem," he said of the moment he was rescued. "I didn't want to die. I fought hard to stay alive for my family."

Reedy and crew members were taking members of an extended family to a remote island to hunt for mutton birds, the New Zealand press is reporting.

Among the feared dead are the 7-year-old, Odin Karetia, and the boat's captain, 47-year-old Rewai Karetai, who helped rescue three people from another capsized fishing boat just two months ago, according to the Associated Press.

After rescuing Reedy, divers found one body Thursday evening and three more bodies on Friday afternoon. All were found near the ship's wreckage, nearly 130 feet below the ocean's surface, police said.

In addition to Reedy, those on board the ship were identified as: Shane Ronald Topi, 29; William Rewai Desmond Karetai, 47; Paul Jason Fowler-Karetai, 40; Odin Karetai, 7; Boe Taikawa Gillies, 28; John Henry Karetai, 58; Peter Glen Pekamu-Bloxham, 53; David George Fowler, 50.

All were from the local Invercargill area, police said.

The ship went down in the notoriously dangerous Foveaux Strait area where, according to the New Zealand meteorological agency MetService, there were rough seas, high winds and rain at the time of the accident, the Associated Press reports.

Reddy and the four victims recovered were not wearing life jackets, according to police. An emergency locator beacon was not activated when the ship sunk.

Specialized rescue crews were traveling from the New Zealand mainland to the wreckage area to attempt a deep sea dive Saturday, police said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.