Celebrated sailor Peter Warner who rescued six Tongan castaway boys 50 years ago killed in yacht capsize

The Australian experienced seafarer whose name was well-known in Tonga for decades has died after his boat capsized on the Mid-North Coast.

Captain Warner wrote in his memoirs, “the boys had set up a small commune with food garden, hollowed-out tree trunks to store rainwater, a gymnasium with curious weights, a badminton court, chicken pens and a permanent fire, all from handiwork, an old knife blade and much determination.”

Emergency services were called to Lighthouse Parade, in East Ballina, at 8.45am on Tuesday following reports two people were in the water after a boat had capsized while crossing the Ballina Bar, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

A short time later, a 17-year-old boy assisted Mr Warner, 90, to shore.

A member of the public started CPR on Mr Warner, but he died at the scene. The boy was not injured, the Herald said.

Officers from Richmond Police District established a crime scene and commenced inquiries into the circumstances of the incident.

Warner’s trilogy, Ocean of Light, said the celebrated sailor lived in Tonga for 30 years.

He arrived in the islands in 1966 after he rescued six Tongan boys who were marooned on the desert island of ‘Ata.

The boys had gone missing for 15 months after a misadventure before Warner rescued them.

These were students who were boarders of the St Andrew School in Nuku’alofa, before they had stolen a boat, and set sail for Fiji, only to be put off course by a storm, eventually washing ashore at ‘Ata.

In Tonga “Peter was proclaimed a national hero,” the Guardian reported.

As a reward for his rescue, late King Taufa‘āhau Tupou IV allowed Warner to trap lobster in the kingdom’s waters and started a business which employed many locals for years.

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