A Western Bay man has died after falling from a luxury cruising yacht in North Queensland.
Jonathan Jackson's body was recovered from the ocean floor by police divers yesterday after the accident early the day before.
His grieving parents, Michael and Cheryl Jackson, spoke to the Bay of Plenty Times last night from Marcona Inlet, off Hook Island, where their 22-year-old son's body was brought ashore.
The Katikati couple said Jonathan was working as a trainee chef on board the 33m tall timber sailing ship Pacific Sunrise when he fell about 12.50am on Saturday.
The boat was moored in a bay in the Whitsunday Islands in calm conditions at the time.
Passengers used a torch to scan the water and soon found Mr Jackson but, while a tender was put in the water to retrieve him, he disappeared under the water.
Central Queensland Rescue and local police co-ordinated a search using vessels and a helicopter.
Mr Jackson senior said their son, who grew up in Katikati and attended Katikati College, was "the baby of the family" of seven children.
Their Katikati-based daughter broke the heart-breaking news to them after Australian police were unable to contact them.
The Jackson family home is in Katikati but they have been working at a new gas plant on Barrow Island, about 50km off the coast of Western Australia. They have flown to Queensland.
"It was such a shock. We still can't believe it. We still don't know what really happen to Jonathan other than what police have told us that he fell overboard," said Mr Jackson.
Their son's body was recovered from the ocean floor close to the ship by police divers yesterday. Mr Jackson said a post-mortem examination would be held in Townsville either today or tomorrow.
Mr Jackson said Jonathan moved to Christchurch after winning a scholarship to attend a hospitality chef-training course. He moved back to Katikati after last year's big earthquake and spent a few months working in the kiwifruit industry before flying to Australia in September.
He worked on two other ships in the Whitsunday Coral Cruises fleet before becoming a trainee chef on Pacific Sunrise - a job he was relishing, his father said.
The Pacific Sunrise is operated by Sue and Dab Baker of Whitsunday Coral Cruises, who run charter cruises for up to 21 passengers. It usually sails for three days at a time, and it was on the last day of cruising when tragedy struck.
Mr Jackson said he and his wife have found some consolation in knowing Jonathan was pursuing his passion at the time of his death.
"Our son absolutely loved working on the cruise ships. Jonathan was a very outgoing bubbly person, a real ray of sunshine and everybody loved him."
Mr Jackson says once his son's body is released he and his wife will bring Jonathan back to Tauranga and begin to make arrangements for his funeral in Katikati.
"We really appreciate all the efforts put in by the Australian police force to search for Jonathan and finding his body so quickly is a such a relief to us."