A skipper whose passenger drowned in a bar crossing accident has been convicted of manslaughter for not ensuring his friend was wearing a lifejacket.
Teiron Jones, 60 of Waitara, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Hamilton man Mr Erka Xu, 52, on the Waitara Bar on July 30, 2015. He was convicted and discharged.
On the day of the accident, the two men had gone on a fishing trip in a four metre inflatable boat and as they were approaching the bar at the mouth of the Waitara River on their return, the boat turned side-on to waves and flipped about 200 metres off the coast, throwing both men into the water. A second wave hit the upturned boat and righted it.
Mr Jones managed to get back on board the boat, after local surfer Dave Haskell grabbed his wetsuit and paddled out to help the men when he saw the boat capsize.
Dave climbed aboard the boat and pulled Jones to safety before heading over to where Erka Xu was floating face down and unconscious in the water. Paramedics spent 30 minutes trying to resuscitate Mr Xu but were unable to save him.
A second attempt to cross the bar was successful, and they docked the boat at the Waitara launch area.
Medical assistance was given to Mr Xu but he was pronounced dead. He was married with a young daughter.
Police charged Jones with manslaughter because of a failure to follow a number of safety practices.
It is believed to be the first manslaughter conviction of a recreational boatie in breach of Maritime Rules., says Maritime NZ director Keith Manch.
“If you are the skipper you are legally responsible for the safety of the boat and all on board. You can be prosecuted for breaching safety rules,” says Keith. “A boaties’ lifejacket is your single most important piece of safety equipment. About two-thirds of recreational boating fatalities would be prevented if boaties were wearing a lifejacket.”
The manslaughter conviction sends a strong and tragic reminder to recreational boaties to follow all basic safety practices when out on the water - in particular wearing a lifejacket.
Jones was convicted in the New Plymouth District Court and sentenced to pay $5,000 reparation to the victim’s family.
Maritime Rules make it mandatory for the skipper of a recreational boat to ensure everyone on board is wearing a lifejacket at times of heightened risk. Crossing a bar is usually tricky and can be dangerous, and is often a time of heightened risk.
Neither man was wearing a lifejacket during the trip, nor were there any on the boat.
Nor was there an emergency kill switch for the boat’s engine on board. Jones also failed to take into account previous instructions from local boat skippers.