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Report into Death of Byron Solomon

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Defence

17 April 2008
Media statement

Court of Inquiry Report into Death of Byron Solomon

Defence Minister Phil Goff says that the Royal New Zealand Navy will implement in full the recommendations arising out of the Court of Inquiry into the death of Able Hydrographic Specialist Operator Byron Solomon.

“Byron’s death was the first loss of a sailor’s life on an RNZN ship in many years and was a tragedy deeply felt by his family, shipmates and the Navy. It is essential that all factors that contributed directly or indirectly to his death are addressed and remedied,” Mr Goff said.

“The primary causes of his death were the unexplained release of a Gibb shackle and an oversized offload release hook which did not release in time to prevent the Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) Byron was in from capsizing. Had these parts not failed, the accident and fatality would not have occurred. Both parts have been replaced.

“The accident has also revealed other concerns which need to be addressed.

“The Court of Inquiry has raised questions about the adequacy of the Lloyds certification of equipment used in the lifting and hoisting of the RHIB and some of the equipment such as the self-righting gear on it, as well as the operation of it.

“These issues will be further addressed in the Review of the Safety and Functionality of Canterbury which I foreshadowed late last year. I have released the terms of reference for this Review today. Mr John Coles CB FR Eng, a former Head of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors and former CEO of the Warship Support Agency in the United Kingdom, has indicated his willingness to lead the review. Mr Coles is well qualified for the task. The review is expected to begin within the next few weeks and to conclude by 31 July.

“The Chief of Navy, Maritime Component Commander and Ship’s Captain all assure me that Canterbury is a good ship and when it completes its introduction into service it will be a huge asset to the Navy.

“I accept those assurances but aspects of the process of acquisition and some design issues such as the RHIB alcove justify a review into both the process of acquisition and the functionality of the ship.

“Concerns raised in the Court of Inquiry such as the adequacy of the certification process will be included in this review.

“Finally, the Assembling Authority has also recommended that seamanship training, practice and administration across the RNZN be reviewed by an expert outside the RNZN and this has been completed.

“I am confident that with the remedial action already under way combined with further reviews being undertaken, the Navy is responding comprehensively to the reports of both recent Courts of Inquiry, involving HMNZS Canterbury”, Mr Goff said.


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