Sydney Express/Maria Luisa Investigation
23 April 2004
‘The Old Boys Club At Work!’
New Zealand First deputy leader Peter Brown says he’s extremely disappointed at the outcome of the review of a report into the fatal collision between the Sydney Express and the fishing boat Maria Luisa in Wellington Harbour in December 1996.
Five of the six people on board the Maria Luisa died in the accident but Mr Brown says the collission has been treated little more than a ‘bad day at the office’ scenario by the investigating authorities.
“The supposedly independent reviewer recently engaged by the Maritime Safety Authority to look into the matter has turned out to be a regular MSA employee. Worse still, he was selective in the evidence he considered.
”As well, there was so much cooperation, at the time, between the Transport Accident Investigation Commission and the MSA, that the independence of the investigating authorities, I believe, was compromised.
“Despite a huge effort by the families of the dead men and the experts who assisted them with written reports and submissions, the whole incident has been treated like an everyday occurrence.
“On the evening of 29 December 1996, on a calm night, the Sydney Express left Port of Wellington. The navigators on the bridge that evening failed to act in a seamanlike manner, failed to use their equipment, sometimes totally sometimes properly, and failed to observe many of the maritime ‘rules of the road’.
“All were serious offences and reflected an attitude of negligence and incompetence but no-one has been called to account.
“Five innocent men died yet there was no formal inquiry which attempted to detail, sift through and correlate all the evidence.
“One cannot help but get the impression that the ‘Old Boys Club’ has been at work here. The families of the dead men want closure. They are entitled to have a say in the process and at the very least are entitled to a formal hearing.
“There needs to be a formal independent inquiry where all the evidence can be comprehensively and robustly examined in an open forum. That is essential not only for the families of the deceased men, but also for the credibility of our investigative authorities,” concluded Mr Brown.