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Safety messages ignored with tragic consequences

DATE: 31 August 2012

Safety messages ignored with tragic consequences

The sentencing of Timaru man David Lloyd Batchelor following the death of a friend in a boating accident highlights the tragic consequences of not following basic Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) safety guidelines, MNZ Manager, Maritime Investigations, Steve van der Splinter says.

Appearing in Timaru District Court today, Mr Batchelor was fined $500 and ordered to pay $2,500 in reparations to the widow of Frank Sanders, 59, who died on Lake Alexandrina in April 2011 after Mr Batchelor’s 4.7m dinghy, carrying him and three other men, capsized.

Mr Batchelor was convicted in June of permitting a boat to be operated in a manner causing unnecessary risk to the occupants.

The sentencing of Mr Batchelor comes two weeks after five boating mishaps were reported over a single weekend, including one on Wellington harbour in which a man not wearing a lifejacket drowned after the dinghy he was in capsized.

“The message must get through – people are risking their lives, and dying, because they are not taking basic safety precautions,” Mr van der Splinter said. “These are simple steps, but they can save lives.”

As featured in the national advertising campaign “Don’t be a clown – wear a lifejacket”, MNZ recommends that everyone onboard a boat under six metres in length wears a lifejacket at all times.

The law requires recreational boaties to carry enough lifejackets of the correct size for everyone aboard but the Mr Batchelor’s dinghy had just one lifejacket aboard and nobody was wearing it.

MNZ’s other key safety recommendations for boaties are:

- avoid alcohol

- carry emergency communications that will work when wet

- check the weather.

Mr van der Splinter said none of these recommendations were followed on the day Mr Sanders died.

“The men did not have the right equipment, had not done something as simple as checking the weather forecast, and they had been drinking. This was an avoidable tragedy,” he said.

“Had they been wearing lifejackets, it is less likely that the tragic consequences would have eventuated. If they had carried an emergency beacon or a waterproof VHF radio it would have allowed them to raise the alarm immediately.

“Boaties have to realise that someone – the owner or the skipper – must be responsible for the safety of people onboard.

“They are the ones who must make sure the boat is operated safely. They are accountable.”

On 1 July 2011, Environment Canterbury introduced a by-law making it mandatory for lifejackets to be worn at all times on vessels under 6m in length. Similar by-laws are in place for: Hawke’s Bay, Greater Wellington, and Waikato regional councils, Queenstown Lakes District Council, Environment Canterbury, and Environment Southland.

Further information on emergency beacons is available here.

ENDS

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