Sea biscuit death prompts call for harsher laws

MIKE WATSON
Last updated 13:53 20/12/2012

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The death of a Rotorua man who was stuck by a friend's boat has prompted a coroner to call for stronger laws around fatal boating accidents.

Rotorua coroner Wallace Bain was commenting at the inquest this morning of truck driver Andrew Wroe who died when he was struck by a boat on Lake Ohakuri last January.

Mr Wroe was being towed on a sea biscuit in a "competition" between three boats owned by mutual friends, Rotorua search and rescue co-ordinator Detective Sergeant John Wilson said in evidence at the inquest.

The boats had completed the first run "uneventfully" as they towed the sea biscuits 600 metres up a narrow 150-metre wide channel in the Whirinaki Arm of the hydro lake before they went around two buoys and came back to the start area.

However on the second run, one of the boat drivers, James Worsnop, decided to round the buoy in the opposite direction.

The boat towing Mr Wroe saw Worsnop's boat coming towards as it approached the buoy.

Both boats stopped, causing Mr Wroe's sea biscuit to swing in a pendulum towards Worsnop's boat and crash, Mr Wilson said.

Police were not able to find what speed the boats were travelling at before the crash.

The speed limit on the lake around the buoys, and within 30 metres of the shore or other boats, was five kilometres per hour.

The most telling indication of the speed of the boats was fibres from Mr Wroe's sea biscuit found embedded in the gel coating of Mr Worsnop's boat hull, Mr Wilson said.

Mr Wroe suffered fatal injuries to his abdomen, broken ribs and a ruptured spleen.

Worsnop and Tony Sargisson, the driver of the boat towing Mr Wroe, were found guilty in Rotorua District Court in September of operating a vessel causing unnecessary danger.

They were both convicted and fined $3000.

Both men were at the inquest but did not comment.

Dr Bain said he would be recommending in his reserved findings to have a graduated set of charges be made available to authorities "to ram home the seriousness of these boating incidents", which occurred regularly.

Dr Bain said there was "real concern" around boaties who should be more aware of speed regulations when near structures and other boats while on the water.

Boaties need to get serious about obeying speed limits before more occur, he said.

Mr Wroe's death was the third boating death on lakes in the region in the past five years.

Masterton girl Genevieve Lewis, and Rotorua student Bishop Thompson, were killed in separate fatal boating tragedies on Lake Taupo, and Lake Okareka respectively.

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Mr Wilson said with summer around the corner police would like to have an incident free holiday season from boating accidents this year.

Contact Mike Watson
Taupo reporter
Email: mike.watson@dompost.co.nz

- The Dominion Post

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