Warning over drinking on boats

ANNA WILLIAMS
Last updated 07:33 03/12/2012

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The death of a Porirua man in the Marlborough Sounds in August last year was a reminder about the dangers of drinking on boats, a coroner says.

Patrick Gerald Rosson drowned on August 27 after he fell from a seven-metre boat in Queen Charlotte Sound, coroner Carla na Nagara said in her finding on Mr Rosson's death, made public on Friday.

Mr Rosson, 49, was on board his friend Gordon Hanna's boat. The pair were returning to Mr Hanna's home at Dryden Bay after visiting friends in Queen Charlotte Sound.

They had stopped at Furneaux Lodge where they had several rounds of beer, then visited a friend where they had a couple more beers.

Staff at Furneaux Lodge and Mr Hanna's friend had described Mr Rosson as moderately drunk. Mr Hanna said he was swaying a little as he walked.

There were lifejackets on the boat but neither man had been wearing one as the sea was calm.

Toxicology results indicated Mr Rosson had a blood alcohol level of 236 milligrams, almost three times the legal adult drink-drive limit of 80mg.

The level of alcohol in his system may have impaired his attempts to get back on the boat after he fell off, Ms na Nagara said. She also noted Mr Rosson was not a strong swimmer.

His level of intoxication was the primary factor in his death, as well as the lack of a life jacket, she said.

"Had Mr Rosson been wearing a life jacket it is highly likely his death would have been avoided.

"Equally, however, it is highly likely that had he not been intoxicated, he would not have ended up in the water."

Mr Rosson had slept in the cabin on the return trip and went to urinate over the side as the boat entered Dryden Bay.

Mr Hanna warned him to be careful and Mr Rosson said "he'd be right".

Mr Hanna felt the boat shift, which was odd on a calm night. He turned the boat around when he realised Mr Rosson was not on board and saw him in the water with his hand up.

Mr Hanna threw a rope but it fell short so he maneuvered the boat again to come alongside Mr Rosson, who was lying face-down in the water. He grabbed his friend but could not lift him on the boat so secured him with a rope while he radioed for help.

An autopsy confirmed the cause of death as drowning.

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- The Marlborough Express

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