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Multiple Fatalities Highlight Educational Need

Multiple Fatalities Highlight Educational Need

Two multiple fatality boating incidents in May have prompted Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) to highlight the value of education and preparation for recreational boating.

Alan Muir Executive Director of WSNZ expressed his concern over the public response to perceived rescue shortcomings, in particular those associated with the Oamaru incident.

“The only public debate to date as a result of this incident has been about the publicised problems associated with the search and research (SAR) response. The key things to consider in this incident are the causal factors, and to eliminate, isolate or minimise the risk in the first place. This is something that the Maritime Safety Authority investigations will hopefully disclose in due course” he said.

According to reports, the Oamaru incident resulted from a fishing trip where the 6m boat was 14km from shore. One of the five men on board noticed that the boat was filling with water and the bilge pump was turned on. But water continued to rise and the boat sank. Two people were rescued and whilst lifejackets were on-board only one person was wearing a lifejacket.

“It is madness at this time of the year not to wear lifejackets at all times. The coldness of the water is such that survival times are much shorter. A lifejacket does give time! However many of the tragic incidents being witnessed relate to the fact that the right actions were not taken in terms of the management of the craft and it is the casual factors that have led to many tragedies not the fact that rescue services weren’t advised in time. Appropriate boating education courses may well have saved many a victim rather than relying on the possibility of being rescued should something go wrong” Alan Muir said.

Coastguard Boating Education is the organisation that provides boating education courses throughout the country. These courses are available at a variety of levels for the benefit of boat users and skippers.

In the second incident at Whitianga the boat should never have left shore. Three men who had been drinking used a dinghy from the beach at 1:30am, had no life jackets, and went out in 25knot winds against the tide to retrieve a set net. These people had no business being on the water. Luckily one made it back to shore safely.

“The fence at the top of the cliff is a much more effective way of ensuring people don’t get into trouble in the first place. The preferred fence is a combination of education and preparation” said Mr Muir.

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